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.''
The New England Patriots are re-signing veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer to an undisclosed one-year deal on Monday, according to a source. Hoyer will be added to a quarterback depth chart that includes Cam Newton, rookie first-rounder Mac Jones and Jarrett Stidham. The 35-year-old journeyman started one game for New England last year, going 15-for-24 for 130 yards with an interception in the Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The 13-year NFL veteran will mostly just provide valuable experience as he battles for the third-string job with Stidham this summer in training camp. You can continue to ignore Hoyer in all fantasy leagues.
Jacksonville Jaguars rookie running back Travis Etienne took repetitions from the wide receiver position during the team's three-day rookie minicamp over the weekend. "At the worst-case scenario, you have a running back with the skillset of a wide receiver," head coach Urban Meyer explained. "Best-case scenario you'll have a hybrid player who does both and that's what we're hoping to develop out of Travis." The Jags took Etienne at No. 25 overall in the first round of the draft. He had 48 catches for 588 yards and two touchdowns in his senior season at Clemson and had 7.2 yards per carry in his four years. Jacksonville already has James Robinson in the backfield, but Etienne could be a Swiss Army Knife for this offense alongside pass-catchers D.J. Chark, Laviska Shenault Jr. and Marvin Jones.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said that quarterback Trevor Lawrence (shoulder), the first overall pick of the draft, "looked great" during rookie minicamp over the weekend. Lawrence was on a 30- to 40-throw "pitch count" after February surgery on his non-throwing shoulder. The Jags are being cautious with their franchise signal-caller, but Meyer expects Lawrence to be "pretty close to full go" before the end of organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, which are scheduled to begin May 24 and go through June 17. The team is keeping him away from handoffs and direct snaps under center to avoid falling and getting his arm jammed. Lawrence's shoulder no longer bothers him and is healed, and he's currently getting accustomed to a coordinator calling plays into his helmet. He'll be the Week 1 starter in his rookie season and could have some QB1 streaming value in the right matchups if he makes a seamless transition to the NFL.
Detroit Lions rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown has a large chip on his shoulder after 16 receivers came off the board before him in this year's NFL draft. St. Brown was the 112th overall selection in the fourth round after catching 178 passes in his three-year career at USC. He lined up both outside and at slot receiver during practice on Sunday, and head coach Dan Campbell said it's too early to define St. Brown's role for the upcoming season. "I'm excited to be here," St. Brown said. "I'm excited to work and I'm ready to take someone's job." Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman are the team's top starters, but neither one of them have proven much yet in the NFL, so St. Brown could carve out a pretty big role in this offense in his rookie season.
The New York Giants signed former first-round wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin following a tryout at rookie minicamp last weekend. Benjamin, who hasn't been on an NFL roster since the end of the 2018 season, will play tight end. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder will be reunited with general manager Dave Gettleman, who drafted Benjamin with the Carolina Panthers in 2014. Benjamin caught 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns in his rookie season, but that has been the high point of his career after he tore his ACL the next season. While he has the necessary size at tight end, he'll join a crowded room in New York, headed by Evan Engram and former Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph. The Giants also have Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo as backups, so Benjamin will be a long shot at this new position. New York also signed running back Corey Clement on Sunday.
Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller (ankle) is back at the team's facilities on Monday for Phase 2 of the offseason program. Miller was looking really good in training camp a year ago before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury just before the start of the regular season. There will be a lot of eyes on the All-Pro pass-rusher in the final year of his contract in 2021. The Super Bowl 50 MVP will be motivated to prove that he's still one of the best pass-rushers in the league at age 32. If Miller looks as good as he did last summer and stays healthy, the Broncos defense could be very good this year. The eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro had a disappointing eight sacks back in 2019, only the second time in his career that he hasn't reached double-digit sacks.
Former Washington Football Team defensive end Ryan Kerrigan announced on his Instagram that he's signing an undisclosed deal with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday. After spending 10 seasons with Washington, the four-time Pro Bowler will remain in the NFC East and join the division-rival Eagles. The 32-year-old veteran has racked up 454 tackles (119 for loss), 147 QB hits, three interceptions (all for touchdowns), 25 passes defensed, 26 forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 95.5 sacks in 156 career games (141 starts) after he was the 16th overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. For an Eagles team lacking a ton of depth on the defensive front, Kerrigan represents a very nice pickup.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots wide receiver Marqise Lee is signing an undisclosed deal with the San Francisco 49ers on Monday, according to a source. Lee spent the first five seasons of his NFL career with Jacksonville after they selected him in the second round out of USC in 2014. The 29-year-old opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, so he never actually played a game with the Patriots. Lee hasn't played in a full season since 2017, but he'll have a real chance to make the Niners roster this summer if he can stay healthy. He dealt with injuries in 2018 and 2019 and played a combined six games those two years. In 59 career games (30 starts) with Jacksonville, Lee had 174 catches for 2,184 yards and eight touchdowns. He'll be hoping to provide some depth behind Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and will compete with the likes of Mohamed Sanu, Richie James, Trent Sherfield and Jalen Hurd.
The Cincinnati Bengals signed former San Francisco 49ers slot receiver and punt returner Trent Taylor to an undisclosed deal on Monday, according to a source. Taylor is a good fit with Cincinnati, who lost slot receiver/punt returner Alex Erickson in free agency this offseason. Taylor, 27, caught 10 of his 21 targets for 86 yards and no touchdowns in 12 games (one start) for the 49ers last season. The fifth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech in 2017 by the 49ers caught 79 passes on 122 targets for 731 yards and three touchdowns in his three seasons with the team over 41 games (two starts). With Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, Auden Tate and rookie Ja'Marr Chase in the fold, Taylor will be providing receiving depth, so don't expect much in terms of fantasy value.
Free-agent DE Ryan Kerrigan (Football Team) agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Philadelphia Eagles Monday, May 17.
Free-agent WR Trent Taylor (49ers) agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Cincinnati Bengals Monday, May 17.
Chicago Bears QB Andy Dalton will work with the first-team offense when offseason workouts begin even through QB Justin Fields performed well during the rookie minicamp, according to head coach Matt Nagy.
Fantasy Spin: It appears like Dalton will enter training camp as the leading candidate for the starting job, but Fields likely will push for the job. Dalton may begin the season as the starter but probably will lose it to Fields at some point during the season. Fantasy players in most leagues should consider the starting Chicago quarterback as a No. 2 fantasy quarterback.
Free-agent DE Kendall Donnerson (Bengals) signed with the Carolina Panthers Sunday, May 16. Terms of the contract were not disclosed. The team also waived PK Matt Ammendola, LB Daniel Bituli and DT PJ Johnson.
Free-agent S Lano Hill (Seahawks) agreed to terms with the Carolina Panthers Sunday, May 16, according to a source. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Free-agent RB Troymaine Pope (Chargers), TE Jerell Adams (Lions), CB Antonio Hamilton (Chiefs) and S Curtis Riley (Vikings) agreed to terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, May 16. Terms of the contracts were not disclosed.
Free-agent OG Alex Redmond (Bengals) and CB Dre Kirkpatrick (Cardinals) recently worked out for the New England Patriots, but neither is close to a contract with the Patriots.
Free-agent WR/TE Kelvin Benjamin (Chiefs) signed with the New York Giants Sunday, May 16. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers SS Jordan Whitehead (shoulder) reportedly looks good but may be held out of the team's minicamp in June, according to head coach Bruce Arians. He is recovering from a torn labrum sustained in last season's NFC Championship Game.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard (Achilles) is expected to attend mandatory minicamp in early June, according to comments from head coach Bruce Arians. 'Yeah, he's really close now. He looks fantastic working out every day,' Arians said.