Hines Ward: 5 Teams That Could Use the Veteran Receiver
The 14-year veteran turns 36 later this week, and the AFC North team that appears to be doing a complete overhaul of their franchise does not see him in their future.
However, this does not mean the end of Ward’s career.
Ward still has plenty to offer a team, as he is one of the most dynamic and skilled players at the position even in his advanced age. There are plenty of teams that would give up their current crop of receivers to have him.
Here is a list of five where he may be a good fit.
New York Jets
Marc Serota/Getty Images
The Jets' season ended in the most embarrassing of ways last year, with a locker-room blowup that dominated the media.
Their own veteran wide receiver and team captain Santonio Holmes called out quarterback Mark Sanchez and reportedly gave up toward the end of their last game.
He was subsequently benched and marred for his actions.
Ward offers this kind of ability. He may not have the quickness of Holmes or provide the physical presence of Burress, but he makes up for both with near technical perfection.
Sanchez needs this kind of route-running and sure-handed target to reverse the sentiments that he will never live up to what the fans want.
Beyond that, Ward has also been characterized for his physicality and often dirty play. Does this not sound like it would fit in perfectly with the Rex Ryan system?
San Diego Chargers
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Chargers are looking at the real threat of losing their Pro Bowl receiver, Vincent Jackson, to free agency.
The 6’5” man has been the staple of San Diego’s passing game and Philip Rivers' favorite deep-play threat.
Last season, Jackson played most of his games well below 100-percent fitness, and it showed, as the Chargers never seemed a real threat to go deep.
The run game cannot thrive without at least the bluff of the deep threat, and it ultimately caused Norv Turner’s team to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Ward would be an acceptable replacement for the interim while they look for a long-term receiver. He does not have the speed he once had, but he is still able to go up and get the ball out the air, which is the way Rivers has thrown for years.
It would also be helpful to have player with winning playoff experience on the team.
The Chargers have been a failure over the past seven or eight years, as they are routinely picked for Super Bowl glory. However, their hopes always end in the playoffs, as they have never been able to perform consistently well in the postseason.
Not only should Ward help get them there, but his experience could come in handy to lead them to a championship.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Bears' season was a disaster through no fault of their own.
However, even when all were healthy, there was something left to be desired in their passing game.
Without a big-time wide receiver, Cutler has done a pretty impressive job of making them into a contender.
Ward would be an excellent addition to a team that is in real need of both talent and leadership.
He would finally give Cutler the kind of target that can make a catch on his own and does not need the ball threaded perfectly to him. With Cutler’s main issue of trying to overdue things, Ward would make the risks Cutler takes less so.
There is also the factor of weather.
It is rare that wide receivers have long, fruitful careers in climates like Pittsburgh, but Ward has made it happen. Soldier Field in Chicago will not be much of a change for the veteran who is used to wind, frigid temperatures and an all-natural grass surface.
It may seem small, but it should not be overlooked.
Rob Carr/Getty Images
You may wonder why a team with arguably the best receiver in the league would want to spend money on an aging vet, but it actually could be one of Ward’s best options.
The Texans had a breakout season last year, going 10-6, winning the AFC South and making their first playoff appearance.
Surprisingly, this was all with star player Andre Johnson injured for most of the season.
However, once they got there, the inexperience showed, and they were handled by Baltimore in the second round.
Ward in Houston would make sense for two reasons.
First, his experience—similar to what I said in San Diego—would move them from playoff hopefuls to Super Bowl contenders.
Second and more importantly, Ward would be an excellent complement to Johnson. While Johnson can use his pure athleticism to make big plays, Ward will command respect and make you honor him enough to give Johnson chances.
It also could make the most sense for Ward himself. Living in a city that loves the game and playing for a hot young team like Houston, who will probably own the AFC South for the next few years at least, could be a fine way to end his career.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Redskins have one of the most unrecognizable and inefficient receiving groups in the league.
Match that with inept quarterback play from two different players, and you have an absolutely atrocious passing game.
With rumors circulating that the Redskins are looking to trade up for the No. 2 overall pick so they can be sure to select Robert Griffin III, it looks like Mike Shanahan is looking to end that stigma.
However, drafting Griffin alone is not going to bring you success.
He will still have the same horrible players to throw the ball to that John Beck and Rex Grossman had. After probably having to sacrifice quite a bit in terms of draft picks to move up, they won’t be able to get the receivers they need through college.
Ward could be a perfect kind of player to bring in to help show Griffin the ropes.
Ideally, you would want to have Griffin paired up with a target that can be his go-to guy for years to come. That is not going to happen right away, but Ward could fill in and teach the kid about the kind of things he needs to look for with his receiver.
It will not be a long-term solution in the nation’s capitol, but it will surely help the development of one of the most highly rated players to ever enter the pros.
Where Do You Think Ward Will End Up?
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Two things are certain: Ward will not be a Steeler next season and he will be playing.
The question that remains is where.
So do you think Ward fits well into these teams, or do you have your own prediction on where he could go?
As always, let me know down below, and thanks for reading!
Follow me on Twitter: @thecriterionman