Ward was not tendered a qualifying offer from Atlanta and became a free agent Wednesday, D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Ward didn't receive substantial playing time during his three seasons in the crowded Falcons' backfield, but the undrafted back out of Oregon State was a gritty performer during his tenure in Atlanta. He accumulated only 90 carries between 2015 and 2017 but performed reasonably well with limited opportunity, averaging 4.2 yards per carry and fumbling only once.
Simply put, when Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are healthy, Ward has a difficult time finding playing time, let alone getting carries or targets. Ward will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason, and it seems likely he'll gravitate toward a less-crowded backfield, but that doesn't mean he's guaranteed touches or even a roster spot in 2018.
Ward rushed eight times for 40 yards in Monday's 24-21 win over Tampa Bay.
Ward also caught one pass for six yards on the day. His increased workload was a direct result of Tevin Coleman being sidelined with a concussion, and Devonta Freeman still got the lion's share of work with 22 carries and five receptions. Ward would be in line for a similar workload if Coleman missed more time.
Ward rushed for 35 yards on seven carries and lost three yards on a catch during Sunday's 34-20 win over Tampa Bay. He lost a fumble during the contest.
Ward saw 20 offensive snaps on Sunday with Devonta Freeman (concussion) out of the lineup. It was also the third straight game of at least seven touches after no touches for the first six games of the year. The way Ward's season began is worth keeping note of, along with Freeman's health. An Atlanta backfield with a healthy Freeman and Tevin Coleman has little room for Ward.
Ward was limited in practice Thursday due to a knee injury but will take the field Monday night. Devonta Freeman (concussion) has been ruled out of the contest, which will make Tevin Coleman the lead back and Ward the No. 2 option. As long as he remains healthy, Ward seems likely to see increased action Monday night given the Falcons' dual-back playing style.
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