Hines Ward Wouldn’t Be Right Fit for Patriots, Even If He Could Help Them


February 11, 2012

Hines Ward Wouldn't Be Right Fit for Patriots, Even If He Could Help ThemWide receiver Hines Ward has always been the perfect Steeler — beloved by his teammates and fans, and loathed by the rest of the planet.

He is the prototype of a player you can't stand until he plays for your team. For that, he'd be adored by the Patriots if the two sides ever linked together, much like Rodney Harrison earlier in the decade. Yet the Patriots don't need to win any popularity contests, and Ward just wouldn't be a beneficial addition at this point in his career.

Ward, who reportedly won't be back in Pittsburgh for a 15th season, might try to hook on with another team for a last hurrah. It wouldn't be in the best interest of his own legacy to play for another organization, as players always earn bonus points for sticking with one team for the entirety of a career, but it's hard to tell someone with Ward's compete level to just shut it down and call it a career when he feels feel like he's got some gas in the tank.

Ward will turn 36 in March, but he can still serve a purpose as a role player in the NFL, even though his skills have diminished in recent years. His numbers have waned in two straight seasons as the Steelers have gotten a lot younger and faster at the position. Plus, three of Ward's four best statistical seasons came from 2001-03, which, from the department of the obvious, was a long time ago.

The Patriots need to upgrade their production on the outside, and there are many more viable options on the market than Ward. Wide receivers Reggie Wayne, Vincent Jackson and Brandon Lloyd highlight a very talented class of free agents, and if the Patriots swing and miss on the open market, there will be some intriguing prospects in another solid draft.

Even if the Patriots retain both Wes Welker and Deion Branch, they could use a boost at the position to take some of the pressure off Tom Brady's top four targets, both in terms of coverages and overall reps.

Sure, Ward would be a nice role player in New England, but he'd only be about Plan D. Plus, as experiments have shown with Chad Ochocinco, Joey Galloway and Torry Holt, the veteran additions don't always work out, regardless of a player's past success.

Ward could help the Patriots, and he'd be a hit with the fan base due to his work ethic and on-field tenacity. But at this point, the two sides don't really need each other.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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