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Broncos release Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward

Zac Stevens Avatar
September 2, 2017

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The “No Fly Zone” is no more.

On Saturday morning, the Denver Broncos cut three-time Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward in an effort to save $4.5 million in salary cap space.

In what would have seemed like a stunning move just a week ago, the writing was on the wall Monday after the Broncos did not deny reports they were in communication with other teams about potentially trading Ward.

After not finding a trade partner, the Broncos decided to cut Ward before his $4.5 million base salary became fully guaranteed for the season.

By cutting Ward, the Broncos will have $1.25 million in dead money against their cap for 2017, but now have over $15 million in salary cap space, which can carry over into 2018.

Although there was heavy opposition from current Broncos, most notably linebackers Von Miller and Brandon Marshall, Denver ultimately decided it was time to move on from the veteran.

Not only do the Broncos gain additional salary cap space, they move on from a player that has missed five of the last six games due to injury—Ward missed the final two regular season games in 2016 with a concussion and the Broncos first three preseason games of 2017 with a hamstring injury.

The move also opens the door for Denver’s three young safeties to play a more prominent role in the defense. Second-year safeties Justin Simmons and Will Parks are now expected to see a significant increase in their playing time while undrafted rookie Jamal Carter could see playing time as a hybrid safety/linebacker, much like Ward occasionally played during his time in Denver.

Simmons, a third-round pick in 2016, will replace Ward as the starting safety opposite Darian Stewart, much as he did in Denver’s three preseason games this year as well as the final two regular season games of 2016.

While Denver would have loved to keep Ward’s talent on the roster longterm, the team already has over $30 million in salary tied in the secondary for 2018 which would have made it very difficult to sign the 30-year old up past this season.

Ward joined the Broncos in 2014 after spending his first four seasons of his career with the Cleveland Browns as their second-round pick in 2010.

Denver’s defense thrived during Ward’s three seasons in Denver. After finishing as the 16th-best scoring defense in 2014 (Ward’s first season in Denver), giving up 22.1 points per game, the Broncos finished as the fourth-best scoring defense the past two years, giving up 18.5 and 18.6 points per game in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

The Broncos vaunted “No Fly Zone,” which was established in Ward’s second year with the team after the arrival of fellow safety Stewart, was by far the league’s best pass defense the past two seasons, giving up an average of less than 200 passing yards per game each year.

In Ward’s two Pro Bowl seasons in Denver, 2014 and 2015, the Broncos ranked as the second and third best defense against the run in the NFL, giving up 79.8 and 83.6 yards per game, respectively.

Ward started in all 41 games that he played with the Broncos, accumulating 222 tackles, five sacks, five forced fumbled and three interceptions.

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