In their Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Denver Broncos saw what happens when a hard-hitting enforcer-type safety roams your defense. Seahawks defender Kam Chancellor, who should have been the game's Most Valuable Player, thumped Denver's receivers on all manner of underneath routes, making sure that the Broncos understood that success would invite punishment.
Denver couldn't get Chancellor, but Executive Vice President John Elway and head coach John Fox may have come close, striking a deal with former Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward. According to the Denver Post, the contract will be worth about $23 million over four years, with $14 million guaranteed.
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
Selected in the second round of the 2010 draft out of Oregon, Ward starred for the Browns right away, amassing 80 solo tackles and two interceptions in his rookie campaign. And while he can cover deep, he's really gained a reputation as one of the harder hitters in the NFL -- something the Broncos could use. In 2013, he had 74 solo tackles and two more picks. He's one of the best run-stopping safeties in the league, and his ability to bring pressure as a blitzer makes him a very impressive player.
In 2013, Ward earned his first career Pro Bowl selection and second-team All-Pro honors from the Associated Press. He also was voted by his teammates as the recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award after starting all 16 games for the Browns following a knee injury late in the 2012 season.
"The position is ignored but yet in the playoffs, there seems to be a safety who's extremely instrumental during the [postseason] run," former Broncos safety John Lynch recently told the Denver Post. "[Bernard] Pollard a couple years ago with Baltimore. You saw with the Broncos in the Super Bowl, Kam Chancellor in many ways took over that game." Grade: A. Ward will add an entirely new dimension to Denver's defense, and there's no question that he'll thrive under Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Given the price tag, this is one of the best deals in this free agency period thus far.