Fantasy spin: Ward signs with Tampa Bay

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to have a shiny, new look in 2009.

The team has released veterans Derrick Brooks, Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard, passed on re-signing Jeff Garcia and added a new offensive weapon in Kellen Winslow.

On Monday, the Bucs made their latest move by signing Derrick Ward to a four-year contract.

The deal shakes up the team’s backfield, but it makes the situation clearer for fantasy leaguers.

Ward, 28, is coming off a career season with the Giants. Despite sharing carries with Brandon Jacobs, he still hauled in 41 passes and recorded over 1,400 scrimmage yards.

I would project Ward as the starter in what will be a “Thunder and Lightning south” with Earnest Graham, whose stock falls as a result of the move.

Ward, a versatile back and a nice fit for the zone-blocking scheme of new coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, will see time on early downs and in most passing sets. Where he loses some of his luster is in touchdown production, as Graham will be the favorite to see short-yardage and goal-line work.

Fantasy leaguers should see Ward as a viable No. 2 back or flex starter, while Graham will be more suited to a reserve role in most formats.

With Ward out of New York, Ahmad Bradshaw sees an increase in value. He’s now the favorite to back up Jacobs in a similar role to the one Ward thrived in last season.

That makes the explosive Bradshaw worth a middle- to late-round selection.

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