Broncos are signing former Browns S TJ Ward, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2014
Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer shared the terms of the agreement:
Mike Klis of the Denver Post had full details on Ward's deal with the Broncos:
T.J. Ward gets 4 years, $23 million; $14 million guaranteed— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) March 11, 2014
Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway was quick to tweet out his thoughts on the move:
Excited to announce we've agreed to terms with strong safety T.J. Ward. He'll bring energy and toughness to our secondary.— John Elway (@johnelway) March 11, 2014
The 5'10", 200-pound safety helped turn the Browns into one of the best and most underrated defenses in the NFL last season, but the team decided not to re-sign him.
Albert Breer of NFL.com shed some light on why the move to Denver makes sense for both sides:
Ward was such a crucial part of the Browns' success that Dan Durkin of 670 The Score ranked him as the No. 2 safety in free agency, behind only Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills:
my top-5 #nfl free-agent S list (in order): jairus byrd, tj ward, donte whitner, antoine bethea, chris clemons.— dan durkin (@djdurkin) March 11, 2014
Ward is fully capable of both defending the pass and coming up to stop the run. In 2013, he registered 10 stuffs for a total of 26 yards, each of which was more than his first three years combined.
As for his toughness on the field, Willie McGinest—a former terror on the New England Patriots' defensive line now with the NFL Network—gave his description of the safety's style of play (via Ward's official Instagram account):
The 27-year-old came away with 112 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven passes defended and two interceptions in Cleveland last season. He's an all-around playmaker in the secondary that immediately improves the Denver defense in more ways than one.
Entering his fifth season, Ward finally has a chance to play for a team with playoff hopes and should continue his ascension with the Broncos. His gritty style of play will fit in perfectly in the AFC West and will help bolster the Denver defense in 2014.
As for the team he leaves behind, the Browns look like a squad that can still compete on defense with any team in the division. And with a lot still left to be done this offseason, Cleveland has a chance to continue building after making up for the loss of Ward with Donte Whitner.