After 14 seasons with the Steelers, Hines Ward won't be suiting up for Pittsburgh in 2012.
The receiver has been released by Pittsburgh after spending his entire career with the team.
Ward had just 381 receiving yards this past season, his lowest output since he was a rookie. The Steelers cut Ward, and never gave him a chance to take a pay cut.
The veteran still plans on playing next season, even though his production has seen a precipitous drop in the past few years. He has had a very good career, making four Pro Bowls and winning two Super Bowls.
The lifelong Steeler said in a statement that he will always bleed black and gold, but hopes to play for another team in 2012.
This isn't how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago. I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life...I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL again this upcoming season.
Ward won't be a highly sought after commodity, but there are a few teams that could use him.
Here are the most likely landing spots for Hines Ward:
The best team that has a chance of landing Ward is probably the Cardinals. Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator for Pittsburgh and spent six years with the Steelers while Ward was there. Ward would fit well as a slot receiver in Arizona. He clearly doesn't have the speed he used to, but won't be expected to do a lot with the Cardinals. They have one of the best receivers in the league in Larry Fitzgerald.
This move would be based mostly on Peyton Manning signing with the Dolphins. Miami seems to be the early favorite to land the quarterback if he is released by the Colts. Miami needs a few offensive pieces to compete, and adding a veteran receiver with Manning would help. Some reports say Reggie Wayne will go to whatever team Manning signs with. Ward would fit in very well with Brandon Marshall and Wayne as the team's top two receivers.
This would be another case of Ward teaming up with one of his former offensive coordinators. New Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey held the position with Pittsburgh from 2001-2003. Ward is nowhere near the player he once was, but that might not matter much to Jacksonville. They have one of the worst receiving corps in the league. In 2011, tight end Marcedes Lewis led them with just 460 yards receiving. Ward would be one of the best wide outs on their roster, and could help mentor the young players on the Jaguars roster.
New York Jets
The Jets were known as a team with a bunch of bad characters this past season en route to an 8-8 record. New York will clearly look to upgrade the personality of its locker room, and brining in a veteran like Ward would be one way to do that. Recent reports say the Jets are entertaining the possibility of bringing in Braylon Edwards. Edwards had the worst season of his career in 2011 with the 49ers. He caught just 15 passes before being released. If New York is willing to bring in a guy like Edwards, why not give Ward a chance?