The 49ers have a number of critical decisions to make this offseason, and one of them concerns safety Jimmie Ward, a pending free agent. San Francisco selected Ward in the first round of the 2014 draft, and he has spent his entire six-year career with the club.
He was also eligible for unrestricted free agency last offseason, but he had to settle for a fairly modest one-year pact, largely as a result of his injury history and his relatively uneven tenure with the Niners to that point. But he turned in his best season to date in 2019, starting all 13 regular season games in which he appeared (plus three more in the playoffs), and he finally settled in at the free safety position after playing various roles in the defensive backfield in previous years.
Advanced metrics were fond of his work, and he was a key component of San Francisco’s suffocating secondary, which was No. 2 in the league in defensive DVOA. As such, he could be in for a lucrative multiyear pact, and he hopes he gets one from the 49ers. “This is where I would like to be,” Ward said (via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area). “I like to continue playing for this great organization.”
Ward acknowledges that the club has a number of other players it needs to take care of, so he does not know if he fits into the long-term plans. That is especially true given that the Niners are near the bottom of the league in projected cap space in 2020. “The 49ers have the upper hand right now,” Ward said.
But regardless of where he signs, Ward wants to stay at safety. “Yes, it’s amazing I can do other things, too,” he said. “But leave me at safety. That’s what I love to do. That’s what I’m most passionate about. Basically, if it don’t work out with the 49ers, I’m going to look at any possibilities with teams that want me to play safety.”
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.