The Tampa Bay Buccaneers thought they made a big impact signing when they got Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward. Instead, he was a disappointment and appears he won’t be back.
We all thought it would happen, but there are now some officially unofficial legs to the presumption that three time Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward will not be in a Buccaneers uniform in 2018.
Ward finished the season with five starts, three passes defensed, one fumble recovery, and thirty tackles. Ward appeared on the new Barstool Radio Show on Power 85 on SiriusXM and discussed his season as well as his future. When asked if he would return to the Bucs, he said;
"“I don’t know if I’m coming back. I don’t know if they want me back. I don’t know if I wanna be back.”"
The strong emphasis he put on the word “wanna” was basically his polite way of saying no, he doesn’t want to be back in Tampa. And who could blame him? No, he didn’t play up to the level we all anticipated, but he also didn’t sign up to be a rotational guy. He’s been to multiple Pro Bowls, was named as an All-Pro, and has a Super Bowl ring. There was nothing about his signing that should have made him believe he would be rotational with the other safeties being Chris Conte, Keith Tandy, and rookie Justin Evans.
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Now, Conte and Evans had outstanding seasons. This may very well have been Conte’s best year – despite the continued hate from fans – and Evans played incredibly considering the question marks surrounding him when he was drafted.
It’s also safe to say that Ward was not a fan Mike Smith‘s system. Now, he praised Smith and head coach Dirk Koetter, saying they are great football coaches and he enjoyed playing for them. That it took a while for he and Smith to get on the same page, but once they were they had a great relationship. However, when it came to the scheme, Ward had this to say;
"“It just wasn’t a good fit. The way they ran they defense, they way they played they personnel, it just wasn’t.*asked if he wasn’t comfortable in quarters*“No no. I’m great at quarters. I’m great at man. I prolly played more man snaps out of every safety in the league in the last eight years. I played quarters my whole career. This is the NFL. Everybody plays the same defense. But when you come into a team and they’re running a defense of quarters different than everyone else runs quarters…”"
It doesn’t sound as if Ward wants to return and it sounds like some of the root of the defensive problems come from the way Mike Smith runs his scheme. Although, this could be the singular view of a disgruntled, frustrated player and his dissatisfaction of a defense that kept him relegated to the sidelines more often than not.
Regardless of if Ward returns or not, safety is one of the concerns of the Buccaneers moving forward and it will be addressed in either free agency or the draft.