T.J. Ward is in the last year of his contract and given the youthful talent stacked behind him, it may well be his last season with the Broncos.
“No, I don’t take it personal,’’ Ward told reporters following the Broncos' first training camp practice Thursday. “Because, it’s business. It’s happened to thousands, hundreds of thousands players and T.J. Ward is not an exception. You’ve got to deal with it how it is. And at the end of the day, you’ve got to do what’s right, what’s good for you and your family.’’
After collecting $17.6 million in his past three years with the Broncos, Ward is due to draw $4.5 million this season. Although he is one of the best box safeties in the NFL and a key inspirational leader to one of the league’s best defenses, Ward may be confronting long odds to stay in Denver past this season.
Conspiring against him is the Broncos have four talented safeties in reserve -- Justin Simmons and Will Parks, who were drafted rookies last year, and Jamal Carter and Orion Stewart, who are relatively well-compensated undrafted rookies this year.
Parks and Carter play with the strong-safety, hard-hitting style of Ward. None of those four young players can’t move into free safety Darian Stewart’s spot as he received a contract extension last November that paid him a $7 million signing bonus, plus $10.5 million in combined salaries for this year and next.
If this it for Ward in Denver, he won’t go hungry. He would figure to draw plenty of interest from the free-agent market. He plays with a Troy Polamalu-type spirit that brings an underrated edgy personality to a defense.
“It’s the last year of my contract,’’ Ward said. “I’m trying to do everything I did my last year of my last contract (when he had a second-team All Pro year in 2013 with the Cleveland Browns).
“Every year I try to play my best football. Last year was a disappointment for me and for the team and just trying to have a much better season this year. Regardless of the contract – you can throw all that to the side. We’re playing football. I’m trying to best football player, the best safety in this league.’’