Derrick Ward Signed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers

aSenior Analyst IMarch 3, 2009

According to sources, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed free agent running back Derrick Ward to a four year, $17 million contract.

Ward, who spent the first five years of his career with the New York Giants, will split carries with Earnest Graham. Both backs have experience in systems in which they shared the ball with several other players.

In Graham's two seasons as a starter, he has split carries with the likes of Cadillac Williams, Warrick Dunn, and Michael Bennett. Ward only started eight games in the last two seasons but received plenty of carries alongside Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw in New York.

Last season, Ward recorded a career high 1,025 rushing yards on just 182 carries. He also had 384 receiving yards. His average of 5.6 yards per carry was the highest among all players with at least 100 rushing attempts. He was also the only player to run for over 1,000 yards despite not starting the majority of his team's games, and his attempts per game (11.4) were significantly lower than his peers (who averaged 17.7 attempts per game).

His consistency and ability to step up and start whenever needed made him a valuable part of the Giants' offense. His most impressive game came in a battle for homefield advantage against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16. In only his third game as a starter that season, Ward rushed for 215 yards and carried the Giants on his back.

Now, he looks to bring his explosive ground attack to Tampa Bay and revitalize an offense that ranked 19th in rushing touchdowns and 15th in rushing yards per game.

This is the second move that Tampa Bay has made to improve their offense after trading for tight end Kellen Winslow earlier this week. Ward, who many agree was the top back on the market, gives the Buccaneers another offensive weapon as they fight to return to the playoffs.

An official announcement is expected Tuesday.