NFL Free Agency: 5 Teams That Should Sign Hines Ward

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IMarch 1, 2012

NFL Free Agency: 5 Teams That Should Sign Hines Ward

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    After he was done winning championships in football, he still found ways to win championships in front of millions of viewers.

    Reports indicate that the Pittsburgh Steelers are set to release long-term wide receiver Hines Ward in order to free up cap room.

    Today indeed is a sad day for Steelers fans. Steelers nation will always remember Hines Ward for three things:

    Superbowl XL MVP

    The best blocking wide out arguably in the history of the game

    The best receiver ever to wear the black and yellow since the Stallworth-Swann era 

    We wish Ward the best in his future travels. Should he ever return to Heinz Field, which might be renamed Hines' Field for a day, he will be showered with love and applause for all that he's done for this great organization.

    Ward has expressed a strong desire to continue his career, as he believes he has more left in the tank and, more importantly, is not done giving his best effort to the game of football, which he loves so dearly. 

    If a team is interested in bringing in a strong-willed veteran with championship experience, here are the five teams that will most likely make that consideration. 

Arizona Cardinals

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    No NFL team likes to recycle old Steelers players as much as the Arizona Cardinals.

    The Cardinals' head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, who was the Steelers' offensive coordinator during their 2005 Superbowl victory, even likes to fill out his coaching staff with ex-Steelers, including former offensive line coach Russ Grimm.

    Bryant McFadden, Alan Faneca, Clark Haggans and Sean Morey are some of the ex-Steelers the Cardinals have brought in in recent years.

    Whisenhunt and Grimm worked with Ward during the prime of his career, including setting up an offense that saw Ward win the Super Bowl XL MVP.

    It's no secret that Whisenhunt still holds a great amount of resentment towards the Steelers for passing him up for the head coaching position in favor of Mike Tomlin. Putting Ward in crimson red would not only be a decent addition to the offense, but would be another way for Wis to stick a thorn in the Steelers' side.

Atlanta Falcons

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    Other than winning another championship, would there be a better way to come full circle in his career than to return to Georgia where Ward played his college ball?

    During his college career with the Georgia Bulldogs, Ward was an exceptional talent, playing receiver, tailback and quarterback. Hines pulled in 149 receptions for 1965 yards, second most in school history.

    The Atlanta Falcons are in desperate need of some good veteran leadership and another receiver to play along side Julio Jones and Roddy White would never hurt.

    As feature back Michael Turner gets older the Falcons' window for a championship run gets smaller.

    Matt Ryan is a very good quarterback and still has much potential, but something that his Falcons lack is proven leadership that has tasted success. Adding a two-time Super Bowl winner might be exactly what is needed for a team that is on the cusp of going deep in the playoffs but continues to come up short.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Kick 'em when they're down!

    That should be the Baltimore Ravens' motto of the offseason.

    After finally winning the AFC North away from the rival Steelers, the Ravens should look for any and all ways to stay on top.

    While signing Ward would not be very practical, the psychological damage it would inflict on the Steelers and their fanbase is inconceivable.

    Imagine if Jerome Bettis would have stuck around for one more year after his hometown Super Bowl victory and donned a Browns jersey. This would be worse.

    One can't help but to think about Brett Favre and the day he stepped on to Lambeau Field in a Vikings uniform. Would Steelers fans give Ward the same treatment?

    Realistically, nobody in the NFL wants to see this happen, but it would make huge headlines and cause a media frenzy in the sports community.

Detroit Lions

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    As Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson continue to grow and prosper, so does the Detroit Lions' professionalism and ability to win games.

    Recently coming off their first playoff appearance in well over a decade, the learning curve for the young Lions is over. No free passes will be given to anyone in blue and silver. This is a team that is stocked with some of the best young talent you can find anywhere in the NFL.

    After their first-round blow out against the Saints, the Lions will be looking to put together pieces of the puzzle that ultimately result in a more successful playoff run in hopes that in the very near future they are ready to go all the way and win the championship.

    As Matthew Stafford has passed for over 5,000 yards already in his short career, a player of Ward's current skill set is not a pressing need; however, what Hines brings to the table is a rough-and-tumble factor. He has used physical intimidation tactics better than any other receiver in recent memory.

    The Lions are a tough bunch who are bullied by no one. Ward has often been cited as a dirty player, but anybody who has really watched Ward throughout his career will tell you that he just includes more physicality than anybody else and those lined up opposite him pay the price.  

    One cannot think of a better fit for Jim Schwartz's bad boy locker room mentality than Hines Ward.

Chicago Bears

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    One of these teams is not like the others.

    The Chicago Bears' physical style of play is perfect for Ward. Not only would Ward fit well into the Bears' culture, but also this is one of the few teams with a shot to win where Ward will actually be a commodity. 

    The Bears' receiving corps is suspect at best, they have a decent wide out in Johnny Knox and Matt Forte is one of the best catching backs in the game. But Chicago lacks real standout talent for quarterback Jay Cutler to throw to.

    If there was ever a team where Ward could resurrect his career and be given a good chance to succeed, it would be Chicago.

    Cutler has a strong arm but has never really had the talent around him to showcase his abilities. Even in their Super Bowl run a few years back the Bears were devoid of talent on the offensive side of the ball. 

    If Ward fails to play at the top level he himself believes he can still compete at, then the worst case scenario is that he is a stop-gap player until the Bears attain or develop a young receiver with talent.