TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed to terms with Broncos safety T.J. Ward on Sunday.
General manager Jason Licht, having saved $25.5-million in salary cap space for such a transaction, pounced with more than a half dozen other teams interested when Ward was released Friday after three seasons in Denver.
Ward, 30, is expected to sign a one-year, $5-million contract with the Bucs, who added a three-time Pro Bowl player and Super Bowl champion to their secondary one week before the regular-season opener at Miami.
What are the Bucs getting in Ward?
He's as tough and competitive as any player you will find in the NFL and a key member of the Broncos' No Fly Zone. Ward is also someone who has overcome plenty of obstacles.
A knee injury early during his senior year in high school at prep powerhouse De La Salle in Concord, Calif., forced him to walk on at the University of Oregon.
After being drafted in the second round by Cleveland in 2010, the Browns didn't think he was worth retaining as a free agent despite earning a spot in the Pro Bowl his fourth season.
All he did with the Broncos was go to two more Pro Bowls and play an integral part in their Super Bowl 50 win over the Carolina Panthers by recording seven tackles, a pass defended, a fumble recovery, and an interception.
"I don't think he should be going," Broncos defensive end Von Miller said earlier this week when word that Ward could be released. "That's a cornerstone of the 'No Fly Zone.'"
The Bucs have made room for Ward, dealing backup J.J. Wilcox to the Steelers in a swap of late-round picks.
Pittsburgh gets Wilcox from the Bucs, as well as a 2019 seventh-round pick, while the Bucs get a 2018 sixth-round pick from the Steelers. Pittsburgh also takes on Wilcox's guaranteed 2017 salary, which the Bucs would have had to pay had they released him.
Wilcox signed with the Bucs in free agency in March and was expected to compete for a starting position, but he wasn't able to unseat Keith Tandy and Chris Conte, who returned from last year's team.
With the Bucs signing Ward, Wilcox became the odd man out in the safety rotation. Rookie Justin Evans also remains as a backup safety, along with Josh Robinson, who is primarily a special-teams player.
Hard Knocks star Riley Bullough, a free agent linebacker among the team's final cuts on Saturday, has signed with the Bucs' practice squad, where he can continue to develop and work on a promotion to the 53-man roster. Also re-signed to the Bucs' practice squad was wide receiver Freddie Martino, who caught eight passes last year and lost out to Bernard Reedy for the final wide receiver spot on the 53-man roster
Others singed to the practice squad were:
Wide receiver Bobo Wilson, former FSU receiver who had a 40-yard catch in Thursday's preseason finale and could help on returns; running back Russell Hansbrough, who outperformed draft pick Jeremy McNichols in preseason, was up and down with Bucs last season; offensive lineman Mike Liedtke, who can work at both guard and tackle and drew praise from coach Dirk Koetter in the preseason; safety Isaiah Johnson, who spent all of last season on the practice squad as a developmental safety prospect; fullback-tight end Austin Johnson, who lost out in a deep group of tight ends but has NFL experience and versatility at multiple positions; defensive end Sterling Bailey, former Georgia player who impressed in the preseason and has the only defensive line spot on the practice squad; cornerback Jonathan Moxey, undrafted rookie from Boise State who made the most extra reps as Bucs battled injuries in training camp; tackle Marquis Lucas, former West Virginia tackle who was claimed on waivers from the Atlanta Falcons midway through camp.
NOTES: QB Ryan Griffin, who sustained a sprained AC joint in his right throwing shoulder in the preseason opener at Cincinnati, will remain on the Buccaneers' 53-man roster for a day but is headed to Injured Reserve and probably designated for recall. ... DT Stevie Tu'akolovatu, the Buccaneers' seventh-round draft pick, was placed on injured reserve because of a knee injury. ... LS Andrew DePaola was claimed by the Chicago Bears. ... RB Jeremy McNichols, the Buccaneers' fifth-round pick from Boise State, was signed to the 49ers practice squad. ... TE Antony Auclair, who was born and raised in Quebec, and played college ball in Canada at Laval, finished a strong training camp by making the Bucs' 53-man roster.