ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --In what President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway termed a "difficult decision," the Broncos notified safety T.J. Ward that he would be released in advance of the roster deadline Saturday.
Ward, a three-time Pro Bowler who joined the team as an unrestricted free agent in 2014, is not subject to waivers as a vested veteran and is free to sign with any club.
"He's a respected teammate whose attitude and physical mindset played a big part in our success, especially during our Super Bowl run," Elway said. "We thank T.J. for his contributions as a Bronco and wish him nothing but the best in the future."
Ward, who missed the preseason with a hamstring injury, was entering the final year of a four-year contract he signed in 2014. Safety is also one of the deepest positions on Denver's roster with Justin Simmons and Will Parks entering their second seasons after seeing significant playing time as rookies in 2016.
Ward earned Pro Bowl selections in his first two seasons with the Broncos, helping cement the reputation of the "No-Fly Zone" with his tenacious play and his aggression against the run and in the pass rush. He racked up 222 tackles, five sacks, three interceptions, five forced fumbles and 19 passes defensed during his three seasons with the Broncos.
The Oregon product started all 41 regular-season games and four playoff games in which he played for the Broncos.
Ward's impact went beyond his on-field contributions, as he served as a mentor for teammates in the locker room, including Justin Simmons, who started two games in place of Ward late last season and stepped into the starting lineup this preseason after Ward injured his hamstring during practice Aug. 4.
"T.J. has been there for me since day one," Simmons said. "Coming into last year, he was the first person to text me on draft night. He's just been there for me since Day One."
Simmons and fellow Parks both counted Ward as a mentor. Now both will be counted on to step forward in the wake of Ward's departure.