Wed Apr 21 6:19pm ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016 file photo, Denver Broncos strong safety T.J. Ward (43) follows a play during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla. T.J. Ward, one of the members of the Denver Broncos famed No Fly Zone secondary, announced his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. Ward helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50. Ward played eight seasons in the NFL with Cleveland, Denver and Tampa Bay. He last played in 2017 for the Buccaneers.(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
T.J. Ward, the walk-on at Oregon who became a key part of Denver's famed ''No Fly Zone'' secondary that helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50, officially announced his retirement on Wednesday.
Ward played eight seasons in the NFL, earning All-Rookie team honors, two trips to the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors. He last played for the Buccaneers in 2017, although he spent a month with the Cardinals last season.
''This period came fast, and yet it felt prolonged,'' Ward wrote in an open letter announcing his retirement. ''We each have our own journey in this life and in this sport, and I proudly followed mine until my football path was complete.''
A second-round pick by the Browns in 2010, Ward played eight seasons in the NFL, including three in Denver, where he teamed with Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, Darius Stewart and Bradley Roby to form one of the best defensive backfields in the game.
The ''No Fly Zone'' was the backbone of Denver's dominant defense that led the Broncos to a 24-10 win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, which was Hall of Famer Peyton Manning's farewell game.
''For sure, it's the hallmark moment,'' Ward told The Associated Press. ''That team, that year was very special, and to finish against the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense - and being underdogs pretty much that whole season - and the group of guys and the relationships we built, the camaraderie will last a lifetime. So, I'm definitely fortunate to play with the group of guys I played with on that team.''
Ward said playing in today's era of offensive fireworks made his time in Denver even more special.
''For those years, we were on top of the league, No. 1 in most categories,'' Ward said. ''We did everything you could do as a defense.
''It wasn't like back in the day. Nothing against those other great defenses, but they're lining up in `12 personnel' (two tight ends, two running backs) all day, every day,'' Ward said. ''Those were smash-mouth days, so I wouldn't say they were easier, but just a different type of football you had to stop.''
Ward said Denver's defense led by the ''No-Fly Zone'' could have played in any era.
''You could put us in the AFL, the no merger era. You could put us in the `60s, '70s or '80s and I felt we were smash-mouth enough to go head up with those Bears defenses, the Purple People Eaters, the Steel Curtain.
''Could our secondary play man and zone? Could our D-line rush and stop the run? Could our linebackers play the run and the pass. And you look up and say yes. Well, that's a special defense.''
Ward said he feels he could still play at age 34 but has a lot of other things in his life to attend to other than football.
''Raising my son. He's 8 months old. That's first and foremost on top of the list,'' Ward said. ''I have some business interests, my real estate firm, I've got a management company that you guys will hear about soon. I was writing a book for a while. I have different things like my fashion, my Ward Corp line. So, a bunch of different things.''
Ward said last year in Arizona he felt like he was still in his prime. ''So, physically, mentally, I know I could play,'' he said, ''but it's just not time for me anymore.''
In his letter, Ward thanked members of his family, Oregon for giving him a chance, Cleveland for drafting him, Denver for ''three amazing years,'' and Tampa Bay and Arizona for giving him another shot. He thanked his fans and ended with this: ''Finally, thank you football.''
Former Miami Dolphins safety Bobby McCain is signing an undisclosed one-year deal with the Washington Football Team on Friday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. McCain was a starter and team captain over six seasons with the Dolphins before he was released this offseason, but he should immediately play a key role in Washington's secondary in 2021. His arrival could put Troy Apke's roster spot in jeopardy this summer, and McCain will give Kamren Curl some competition for the free safety spot. The 27-year-old was a fifth-round pick by Miami in 2015, and he spent the first six seasons of his NFL career with the Dolphins. McCain totaled 46 tackles (39 solo), one interception and five passes defensed in 16 games (15 starts) last year. He has seven career interceptions and 30 passes defensed.
Denver Broncos wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (knee) has suffered a torn ACL, according to sources. It was reported on Thursday that the Broncos were waiving Hamilton due to a surplus of depth at the position, but he hasn't officially been waived and the team had been trying to work out a trade. In light of this injury, the Broncos are unlikely to find any trade suitors for the 26-year-old now, so expect him to be officially waived in the near future. Waiving Hamilton will save the team $2.8 million in salary cap space. He'll become the odd man out of a loaded wideout corps that includes Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Tim Patrick. Hamilton had 23 catches for 293 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games for Denver last year.
Free-agent wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who hasn't played in the NFL since 2018, is trying out with the New York Giants during their rookie minicamp this weekend as a tight end. Benjamin was a first-round pick by the Carolina Panthers back in 2014, when current Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was in charge. His best season came as a rookie, when he put up a 1,000-yard season with nine touchdowns in Carolina. He gained weight and fell out of favor, leading to a trade to Buffalo, where he played 18 games with minimal results. Benjamin played in three regular season games with the Chiefs in 2018, but hasn't seen the field since. The Giants already have Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph at the position, so it would be a long shot for Benjamin to resurface in the Big Apple as a tight end.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Joe Tryon (knee), who was the team's first-round selection in this year's draft, is not taking part in rookie minicamp this weekend and recently had a minor surgical procedure on his knee, according to head coach Bruce Arians. Tryon came off the board at No. 32 overall in the first round last month. He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 but managed eight sacks in 2019 in his final college season. He will need to be developed at the next level, but he's an exciting pass-rushing prospect off the edge that should fit nicely with a much-improved defensive unit in Tampa.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur reiterated that the team wants quarterback Aaron Rodgers to return in 2021 and beyond. "We still obviously feel the same way. We want him back in the worst way. I know he knows that. We'll continue to work at it each and every day," LaFleur said. It was reported on draft day last month that Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay, and rumors have been swirling ever since. Green Bay has no plans to trade Rodgers, and several of his ex-teammates believe the situation is fixable. The Packers are apparently pleased with Jordan Love's development despite the fact that he didn't play at all in his rookie year after being a first-round pick. Rodgers, last year's MVP, continues to play at a high level despite nearing the end of his career. Wherever he's playing in 2021, he'll be a highly coveted high-end QB1, that's to be sure.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown is facing a civil lawsuit over allegations of assault and battery stemming from an altercation with a moving truck driver last year. Brown and his trainer, Glenn Holt, both face one count of battery and one count of assault in the lawsuit. Brown pleaded no contest to a felony burglary charge and misdemeanor charges of battery and criminal mischief in the same incident and received two years of probation. His attorneys are questioning the new lawsuit, which was filed more than a year after the incident. The wideout was suspended for the first eight games of last year for violations of the league's personal-conduct policy, but it's unknown if he might face another suspension for this new lawsuit. Brown had 45 catches for 483 yards and four touchdowns last regular season.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, who the team traded up for to select at No. 11 overall in this year's NFL draft, will be taking part in the team's virtual rookie minicamp this weekend. Head coach Matt Nagy, who was present in Kansas City when the team transitioned from Alex Smith to Patrick Mahomes, would ideally like to see Fields sit behind Andy Dalton for a year before he took over the starting job. Don't forget, Nick Foles is also in this QB room. Fields was rated as high as No. 2 in this year's quarterback crop, although the Bears don't seem intent on rushing him with Dalton signed to a one-year contract. Fields is extremely athletic, but fantasy managers in single-year leagues shouldn't expect much from him in 2021.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said it's fair to assume that linebackers Isaiah Simmons (last year's first-round pick) and Zaven Collins (this year's first-rounder) will line up together as starters this season. It means that Jordan Hicks is the odd-man out, and it was reported this week that the organization has given Hicks permission to seek a trade. It doesn't mean that a trade will happen, but Hicks' role would be significantly downgraded if he were to remain with the Cardinals. Collins was taken 16th overall by Arizona in this year's draft and will give the team plenty of versatility as another defensive chess piece.
Former Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle signed his four-year, fully guaranteed rookie contract with the Miami Dolphins on Friday, according to a source. Waddle was the sixth overall pick in this year's NFL draft. He's expected to immediately line up in three-receiver sets alongside DeVante Parker and Will Fuller in his rookie season, and he'll be reunited with college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Based on how Tagovailoa performed in 2020, fantasy managers in single-year formats shouldn't be expecting too much from the rookie pass-catcher in his first year in the NFL, but he'll certainly be an exciting dynasty/keeper pickup. Expect Miami to use Waddle more in the slot, which could make him a favorite target of Tua.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (knee) plans to resume throwing next week after he said he had a 'pretty serious knee surgery' after the Super Bowl.
Fantasy Spin: Brady doesn't have a lot of upside as the fourth or fifth QB in fantasy, but you know what you'll get from him.
Free-agent QB Kyle Sloter (Raiders) will participate in the Chicago Bears upcoming rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.
The Washington Football Team signed all 10 of their 2021 NFL draft picks to their rookie contracts, including first-round linebacker Jamin Davis. Davis was taken at No. 19 overall out of Kentucky after a junior season in which he recorded 102 tackles and three interceptions in 10 games. He'll join an already nasty defense in D.C. after impressing during his school's Pro Day in the pre-draft process. Davis can play in the box but also excels in pass coverage. The 6-foot-3, 234-pounder has excellent athleticism all across the field and should earn the right to start right away in his rookie season. Davis may not be a beast right out of the gates in Washington, but he has extremely high long-term upside.
Free-agent WR Kelvin Benjamin (Chiefs) is expected to participate in the New York Giants rookie minicamp this weekend on a tryout basis, according to a source.
Minnesota Vikings CB Mike Hughes has been traded to the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday, May 13, in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round draft choice. The Chiefs will also receive a 2022 seventh-round draft choice in the trade.
New York Giants DE Breeland Speaks was waived Thursday, May 13.
The Kansas City Chiefs acquired cornerback Mike Hughes and a 2022 seventh-round pick from the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick, according to a source. Minnesota declined their fifth-year option on the former first-round pick a week ago after the 24-year-old has dealt with serious injuries throughout his time with the Vikings. Hughes played in just four games last season and has 80 tackles, 13 pass breakups and two interceptions (one for a touchdown) in 24 games (seven starts) in his three seasons in the NFL with the Vikes. The writing was on the wall for Hughes in Minnesota when the team signed All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson in free agency. The Chiefs will take a low-risk flier on Hughes and cross their fingers that he can stay healthy to give them extra cornerback depth.
The Indianapolis Colts are signing free-agent kicker Eddy Pineiro to an undisclosed one-year deal on Thursday, according to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. Pineiro made 82.1 percent of his 28 field-goal attempts in 2019 with the Chicago Bears in his first NFL season, but he suffered an injury last season and never attempted a kick. The 25-year-old proved to be clutch in high-pressure situations and missed just two of his 29 extra-point tries in 2019 as well. He'll head to Indianapolis, where he'll represent valuable kicking depth behind Rodrigo Blankenship. Fantasy managers can avoid Pineiro in all leagues unless he takes over the kicking duties at some point next season.
Free-agent CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Cardinals) attended an in-person meeting Thursday, May 13, with the New England Patriots.
Former Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is visiting with the New England Patriots on Thursday, according to a source. The former Alabama first-round pick could resurface with head coach Bill Belichick. The 31-year-old was the 17th overall pick of the Bengals in the 2012 NFL draft and spent the first eight years of his career in Cincinnati before joining the Cardinals last year. In 14 games (11 starts) for Arizona in 2020, Kirkpatrick had 56 tackles (53 solo), a career-high-tying three interceptions and seven passes defensed. In his nine-year career, he has 358 combined tackles (307 solo), 13 interceptions (two for touchdowns), 72 passes defensed, three fumble recoveries and three sacks in 113 games (78 starts).
The Denver Broncos are waiving wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton on Thursday, according to a source. The Broncos have a surplus of depth at the position and had trade talks involving the former fourth-round pick, but they couldn't finalize a deal. There's a strong possibility that Hamilton is claimed off waivers by another team. The 26-year-old caught 23 of his 44 targets last year for 293 yards and two touchdowns in 16 games (two starts). In his three seasons with the Broncos, Hamilton recorded 81 receptions for 833 yards and five touchdowns in 46 games (nine starts). With Courtland Sutton returning from injury this year, the Broncos will also have second-year wideouts Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler and Tim Patrick in the fold in four-receiver sets.