For the first time since at least 2009, Brian Dawkins' first season in Denver, the Broncos have a thumper in the back end of their secondary.

The Broncos have agreed to terms with former Cleveland Browns strong safety T.J. Ward, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season.

Ward will sign a four-year contract for $23 million — with $14 million guaranteed.

Ward, 27, was a second-round draft pick from Oregon by the Browns in 2010. Cleveland's general manager at the time, Tom Heckert, is now the Broncos' director of pro personnel.

"He's a young, explosive strong safety who is going to bring a lot of energy and toughness to our secondary," John Elway said in a statement.

In Ward, the Broncos should be able to better defend against the run and make opposing receivers think twice about running routes down the seam. It was a Ward blast to the knees that took out New England tight end Rob Gronkowski last season.

There is some concern about whether Ward's 5-foot-10, 200-pound body can hold up to the physical collisions that are a part of his game. Dawkins was listed at 210 pounds and John Lynch, the Broncos' hard-hitting safety from 2004-07, played at 220.

But the Broncos' goal after their embarrassing 43-8 loss to Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII last month was to get more physical on defense.

The Broncos obviously paid attention to Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor's domination in the early part of that Super Bowl.

Besides Ward, the Broncos also are closing in on re-signing cornerback Dominique-Rodgers-Cromartie and hope to sign Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen.

The Broncos also are considering Jon Beason of the New York Giants, and possibly Baltimore's Daryl Smith at middle linebacker.