Buccaneers: Getting to know new safety T.J. Ward

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after a play in the fourht quarter against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07: T.J. Ward #43 of the Denver Broncos celebrates after a play in the fourht quarter against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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All the excitement around the Buccaneers this holiday weekend is headlined by the signing of three time Pro Bowler T.J. Ward.

T.J. Ward was a player Buccaneers fans were clamoring for on Twitter the moment he was released. And although many of us didn’t believe it would actually happen, Jason Licht came out swinging and landed the three time Pro Bowler and former second-round pick. As a result, the Bucs traded off-season acquisition J.J. Wilcox to the Pittsburgh Steelers in order to make room.

But what do we know about Ward?

For starters, he was a member of the De La Salle High School football team in California. They are best known for going on a 151-game win streak, ranging from 1992 to 2004. Ward was a part of those record breaking teams but was injured his senior season. That led to Ward not receiving many scholarship offers and him joining the Oregon Ducks as a walk on.

Despite not cracking the Ducks’ starting roster until his senior year, Ward was a second round pick of the Cleveland Browns, playing for them from 2010-2013 and making one Pro Bowl during his tenure. He signed a deal with the Denver Broncos as a free agent, starting for them from 2014-2016 as part of their “No Fly Zone” and the Super Bowl 50 championship team.

Ward was rated number 68 in the NFL’s Top 100 as named by the players in 2016 and has been raved about by Broncos teammates – who were not happy about his departure;

"“I don’t know if they are going to listen to us, but I think it is going to impact a lot. He is the key leader and a good teammate.”–Darian Stewart“I don’t think he should be going. That’s a cornerstone of the No Fly Zone.”–Von Miller"

That might b my favorite line about any incoming free agent in recent memory. He is a key leader and a good teammate. Think about that – on a Super Bowl winning defense spearheaded by Von Miller, Ward was a key leader. Add his leadership to that of Kwon Alexander and Gerald McCoy and this defense may have the talent at all three levels we’ve been waiting to see for over a decade.

Next: Buccaneers: First Quarter Predictions

It’s going to be interesting to see how much playing time Ward gets this Sunday against the Dolphins. We know how difficult it was for the team to grasp Smith’s defense, so the crash course will be heavy. That said, when Ward is on the field there’s always the opportunity to make a big play so I fully expect to see him in a rotational role for at least the first few weeks.