T.J Ward has avoided the franchise tag up until now, and with free agency on the horizon, media speculation has linked Cleveland’s safety to the city of brotherly love.
In 2013, several different players occupied the Eagles safety position, but the majority of playing time went to Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, and Patrick Chung. Nate Allen was the Eagles 2010 second round pick and had been a bust up until 2013, when he finally enjoyed some success.
Earl Wolff was drafted in the 5th round of the 2013 draft and in his rookie campaign, he impressed the organization with his play; the issue with Wolff was staying healthy. He endured several injuries that caused him to miss a substantial amount of time.
Chung would enter the starting line up due to injuries, and was the weakest part of the Eagles defense. Chung came to Philly in free agency after playing well in New England. His play was so atrocious that the only explanation is that his success with the Patriots was a product of playing under the best coach in the NFL, Bill Belichick.
Ward is the 2nd best safety in this free agency, behind Jairus Byrd, and a move to Philly is too ideal to ignore. Ward attended the University of Oregon while Chip Kelly was on the coaching staff, so Kelley has insight on the player and also the type of person that Ward is.
In addition to Kelley’s familiarity former Browns head coach, Pat Shurmur, is also apart of the Eagles coaching staff.
Although T.J Ward and Jairus Byrd have been mentioned together, their games are complete opposites. While Byrd, who also attended the University of Oregon, is a ball hawk by nature and can cause game changing turnovers, Wards game is predicated on stopping the run.
In 2013, Ward accumulated 112 total tackles, 3rd best among safeties, and nine tackles for loss which was second best among safeties behind Eric Berry. His impressive season earned him a trip to Hawaii and made him even more attractive in the open market.
He insists that his game is more than just stopping the run, and is offended by the perception that he is lacking in coverage ability.
Ward stated: “From the day I stepped on an NFL field, if you look at my numbers, the times I have been targeted and passes defended I’ve been in the top five of safeties.”
The Eagles are expected to release Patrick Chung after one year of dreadful play. Nate Allen is also set to become a free agent this off-season and his future with the Eagles is still uncertain.
Ward would be a major upgrade to a secondary that needs all the help they can get.
Although media speculation has also linked Jairus Byrd with the Eagles, it is unlikely Philly will pay the money the ball hawk is demanding. Reports claim that Byrd recently turned down a very lucrative contract offer from the Bills.
Ward won’t demand an absurd amount of money, and he can make that secondary very formidable depending on the other moves Philly makes this off-season.