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Buccaneers sign former Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward

The Bucs finally get an upgrade at safety.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will sign former Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward to a one-year, $5 million contracts, reports ESPN’s Josina Anderson. It’s not yet clear who Ward will replace on the roster.

The Denver Broncos released Ward yesterday, as they made their final cuts to get to a 53-man roster. They’d reportedly been trying to trade the 30-year-old safety, so his release didn’t come as a complete shock.

Ward’s play did decline a little the last two years, though he still made the Pro Bowl in 2015, and the Broncos save $4.5 million by releasing him. Still, an outright release seems a bit drastic.

In Tampa, Ward is likely to start immediately. The Bucs have four safeties who can, theoretically, start in Keith Tandy, Chris Conte, J.J. Wilcox and Justin Evans, but all of them are limited in different ways and the Bucs can’t be happy with any of them—which is why they signed Ward, of course.

The main question Ward will have to answer is whether he can quickly adjust to the Bucs’ defensive scheme, and still play at a high level. The Broncos didn’t release him because he’s still playing at a Pro Bowl level, after all. Some good news on that front, though: several Broncos players were not happy with Ward’s release.