T.J. Ward Brings Needed Physicality to Buccaneers' Defensive Backfield
- The Bucs win the T.J. Ward sweepstakes, but had Washington known about Su’a Cravens’s thoughts on retirement, would the team have been more aggressive? And some thoughts on NFL waiver claims and more.
1. I think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and general manager Jason Licht believe in windows after signing T.J. Ward overnight for one year and up to $5 million. A three-time Pro Bowler, Ward was the top name plucked after Saturday’s cuts. He joins a wildly underrated defensive backfield in Tampa Bay that improved dramatically last November and December. Brent Grimes still has it at 34 and Vernon Hargreaves has been sharpening his tools against the Bucs’ elite pass-catchers this preseason. Ward will bring physicality to a unit that plays in the best quarterback division, top to bottom, in the league.
2. That said, I think I wonder how active Washington would have been in the Ward sweepstakes had it known more of Su’a Cravens’s thoughts on retirement. Cravens, a second-year player, told teammates Saturday night he planned to retire but has since postponed the decision. He will begin the season on the exempt list, according to the Washington Post, and be given a month to clear his mind and figure things out. Cravens has already had a tumultuous NFL career. He suffered a concussion last season that he claimed would cause him to wear glasses the rest of his life, a comment that he later walked back. There was a bizarre is-he-or-is-he-not injured moment at the end of last season that Albert Breer chronicled. And he is coming off arthroscopic knee surgery that had sidelined him for the past weeks.
3. I think Brad Kaaya will very soon be Cam Newton’s immediate understudy in Carolina. Interim GM Marty Hurney claimed the former Miami quarterback off waivers from Detroit, and Hurney has been a fan of Kaaya’s since his Hurricane days. Derek Anderson is in the final year of his contract, and at 34 years old he did not have a strong preseason (after struggling last season filling in for Newton.) The Panthers cut third-string quarterback Joe Webb in favor of adding Kaaya, who Hurney will certainly want to groom to eventually take Anderson’s backup spot in due time.
4. I think the Jets are obviously tanking, but at least they’re giving Josh McCown some players to throw to. The Jets were awarded tight end Will Tye off waivers after the Giants released the third-year player this weekend. Tye will help New York bridge the two-game gap caused by Austin Seferian-Jenkins’s suspension, but more importantly he’s already the Jets’ third-best pass-catcher behind ASJ and new Jet Jermaine Kearse.
5. I think Washington claiming T.J. Clemmings from Minnesota has the potential to be mutually beneficial. Washington’s offensive line didn’t perform as well as it should have this preseason, and they did a poor job of protecting Kirk Cousins in the third exhibition against the Bengals when they allowed two sacks in the first three series. Clemmings, meanwhile, has been a mess at tackle and guard ever since a bad week at the 2015 Senior Bowl that put his tape at Pitt into question and helped him fall to the fourth round. Taking a backup role in Washington and re-learning the fundamentals could get Clemmings back on track.
6. I think it odd that, of the 44 claims made on players Sunday, not one was made for fourth-round rookie guard Dorian Johnson. The Cardinals cut the former Pitt Panther this weekend and it seemed sure that he wouldn’t pass through waivers unclaimed in a league that has a serious dearth of talent along offensive lines. Johnson was considered a second-day talent who went at the start of the draft’s third day despite a liver condition.
7. I think Matt Jones found himself in the best possible situation after getting cut by Washington. The Colts claimed the running back to be the No. 2 ball carrier behind future Hall of Famer Frank Gore. I have no idea how long the Colts will be without Andrew Luck: one game may turn into two, which may turn into Jacoby Brissett time. So Indianapolis will need a strong running game if it’s going to make it through September without Luck. Jones’ reliability is an issue, though. He’s put the ball on the deck eight times in his two seasons in the league.
8. I think there’s some painful irony in the decision by members of the Cleveland police union to boycott holding the American flag at next week’s Browns opener. Apparently, to show how upset they are that a dozen players peaceful protested the injustices in our nation last month, these officers are going to ignore their country’s flag and neglect the honor of carrying out such a duty. What’s the point?
9. I think I’d love to hear the football reasons behind Tom Coughlin saying the Jaguars aren’t interested in Colin Kaepernick. He told local media Saturday that the front office did their homework on Kap and “weren’t interested” but declined to answer why or how he/they came to that conclusion. Nearly every football observer has seen what the Jaguars have at quarterback and has determined that this, in fact, will not be the Jags’ year to break through. It can be said with little controversy that Kaepernick is a better quarterback than Blake Bortles or Chad Henne, but those are the two guys the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach is rolling with into the season.
10. I think three cheers are in order for Southern Cal, Western Michigan and umpire Mike Stephens for how they handled Jake Olson snapping the extra point late in the Trojans’ victory. By now you’ve seen the video of Olson, who’s been blind since 12, snapping for the first time in a live game with three minutes left. For Western Michigan’s players to understand the situation while losing their season opener and for the umpire to show such patience and compassion rarely seen from stripes should put a smile on everyone’s face in these tough times.