ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** It's not just that the Broncos got a Pro Bowl safety in the prime of his career. It's the terms at which they nabbed T.J. Ward.
According to multiple reports, the Broncos will pay an average of $5.5 million per year for Ward. The Browns' replacement for Ward, Donte Whitner, will earn a reported $7 million a year. Whitner is nearly year and a half older (he'll be 29 in July; Ward turned 27 last December).
For this, the Broncos got a player who is on the rise, who will be active against the run without sacrificing his coverage responsibilities, and who, by the metrics of ProFootballFocus.com, was the highest-rated safety on the market -- higher than Whitner, and higher than Jairus Byrd, considered by many pundits to be the best safety, if not the best player, on the open market.
With Ward in tow, the Broncos still have plenty of room under the cap left over for some big-ticket items, or for plenty of moderately-priced pickups to fortify the team's overall depth, which is a necessity given how many Broncos hit the market Tuesday.
Few pickups in the first days of free agency will be as cap-friendly and as potentially impactful as Ward. It evokes memories of last year's signing of Louis Vasquez, who was considered among the best, but not the best, guard available in free agency. Tennessee gave Andy Levitre more money, and the Broncos got the man who turned out to be the first All-Pro first-team guard in team history.
Even though the Broncos absorbed the loss of guard Zane Beadles, the internal options for replacing him exist. The addition of Ward bolsters a safety corps riddled by injury questions in 2013. The Broncos appear to be a better -- and certainly more physical -- team than they were at 2 p.m. MDT Tuesday.