TAMPA – Just as he did as a quarterback, Broncos general manager John Elway has quickly developed a reputation for being a savvy decision-maker. When it comes to personnel moves, he seldom makes a mistake.
That’s why we’re still a little curious over why he seemed so eager to let go of Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward.
Elway spent at least the last week or so of the preseason trying to trade Ward and when he couldn’t find a take he simply cut him in a move that seemed like more than just a salary dump.
Either way, the 30-year-old Ward is Buccaneers property now and according to Bucs coach Dirk Koetter, who isn’t prone to hyperbole, he’s already showing off his ability to make an impact in their secondary.
“The guy is a football player, so it doesn’t take long for him to show up,’’ Koetter said of Ward on Thursday. “He had a couple of nice pass breakups today. He’s going to help our team get better.’’
That wasn’t the only good news Koetter delivered regarding Ward. He also noted that Ward took about 20 snaps with the Bucs defense in practice on Wednesday and tacked on a few scout team snaps on Thursday.
That’s an indication that the hamstring strain that briefly sidelined Ward during the preseason is a thing of the past and that Ward should be ready for a fairly regular dose of work come Sunday’s opener.
Will he start? Probably not. Ward is a far more accomplished player than either Chris Conte or Keith Tandy but as quick a study as he is he still may not be ready for full-time duty in the Bucs defense just yet.
Then again, it’s not like he’s learning a whole new scheme. Bucs coordinator Mike Smith’s defense is very similar to the one Jack Del Rio ran at Denver when Ward first came to the Broncos in 2014.
As Smith pointed out, a lot of the verbiage and calls are the same and the extra week Ward had to re-learn all of that as a result of the Bucs opener against the Dolphins being postponed served him well.
“In the meeting room, he has done a great job of watching tape and going through it,’’ Smith said. “He has a very good understanding of football and I think he’s going to be a good addition to our secondary.’’