Roster cut weekend brought a significant addition to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' depth chart.
On Monday, two days after making several dozen cuts to get the roster to the regular-season limit of 53 players, the Buccaneers announced the signing of veteran safety T.J. Ward, formerly of the Denver Broncos. A spot on the roster was opened on Sunday when Tampa Bay traded safety J.J. Wilcox to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Buccaneers made two other roster moves on Monday, continuing a busy weekend. Quarterback Ryan Griffin was placed on injured reserve and long-snapper Garrison Sanborn was re-signed after being released on Saturday. By waiting until after the roster cuts to put Griffin on I.R., the Buccaneers maintained their option to bring the young passer back to the active roster midway through the season.
Ward (5-10, 199) had been released by the Broncos on Saturday after three seasons in Denver. As a vested veteran, he did not have to clear waivers. Ward also played four seasons for the Cleveland Browns and was a Pro Bowl selection following the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons. Considered one of the league's hardest-hitting safeties, he has also recorded eight interceptions, 46 passes defensed, 10 forced fumbles and 8.5 sacks.
The addition of Ward gives the Buccaneers a very deep group of safeties and creates additional competition for the two starting spots. Those are currently occupied by the incumbent duo of Chris Conte and Keith Tandy, but the Bucs also have potential starters in rookie Justin Evans, a second-round pick, and 2017 free agency acquisition J.J. Wilcox.
Pictures of the Buccaneers' new safety.
Ward first entered the NFL as a second-round pick with the Browns in 2010. He stepped immediately into the starting lineup and has opened all 95 games in which he has played for Cleveland and Denver. In addition to his Pro Bowl honors, Ward was also an Associated Press second-team All-Pro selection in 2013, his last year with the Browns. He signed with Denver as an unrestricted free agent in 2014 and was a key part of a dominant Broncos defense that led the team to a Super Bowl victory after the 2015 campaign. In Denver's 24-10 Super Bowl 50 win over Carolina, Ward contributed seven tackles, a pass defended, a fumble recovery, and an interception
Griffin began training camp in a competition with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for the primary backup spot to Jameis Winston. That battle was put on ice, however, when Griffin suffered a shoulder injury during the second preseason game in Jacksonville. Last Wednesday, the Buccaneers signed Griffin to a one-year contract extension covering the 2018 season, an indication that the team was still interested in his future.
Sanborn was signed in the spring after serving eight seasons as the Buffalo Bills' long-snapper. He replaced Andrew DePaola, the Bucs' long-snapper for the previous three campaigns who had suffered a knee injury in the 2016 season finale. Tampa Bay actually brought DePaola back late in training camp but released him last Friday. Sanborn, as had been expected since the offseason, will be the Bucs' long-snapper in 2017.