One of the big free agency moves this off-season that has not gotten much attention is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signing Derrick Ward. How did this happen?
Ward, an extremely talented football player who, although he was the Giants' No. 2 back, is capable of starting in many other places. With this being said, it seems a no-brainer that the G-Men would accept almost any from him in order to keep him in New York. They should have been begging for him to return.
This, however, is not what happened. Ward offered to sign a multi-year contract, but the Giants rejected him. This gave him reason to begin talk with other teams, eventually signing with the Bucs. Why is this such a big deal?
Last season, Ward rushed for 1025 yards with a 5.6 average- pretty good for backup. He was also the team's top receiver out of the backfield, something they are sure to miss.
A sure handed backup, Wind, as he is known, was a reliable option to spell Brandon Jacobs, and probably determined the outcome of a few games. When Jacobs went down with injuries, Ward was right there to pick up slack. He has earned the right to be called one of the league's elite backs.
Although the two backs differ in style—Jacobs with his physical, smash-mouth approach, Ward with his elusive and face-paced demeanor—the production was similar (in terms of yardage at least).
It may have been that the Giants didn't want to pay him big bucks or that they were confident in veterans Ahmad Bradshaw (who has also proven to reliable) and Danny Ware. Also an option is fifth round pick Andre Brown out of North Carolina State.
Whatever it may be, it is the reason that the Giants will be without the second head of their three-headed monster and probably a less productive offense in 2009. The last a great guy and a fantastic player. I wish Ward the best of luck in Tampa and let's hope he has a great career.
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