Jimmie Ward

49ers Restructure Jimmie Ward’s Deal

Entering Friday at the bottom of the NFL in cap space, the 49ers moved back toward the middle of the pack with one move. They redid safety Jimmie Ward‘s deal, creating nearly $6MM in cap room, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

San Francisco carried less than $1MM in space, per OverTheCap, prior to this move. The team moved around $7.8MM of Ward’s 2021 salary into a bonus, creating approximately $5.85MM in cap room, per Yates. This slides the 49ers up to 16th in cap space going into Week 1.

This marks the first Ward restructure. The former first-round pick re-signed with the 49ers last year, doing so after a lengthy stretch without a long-term deal. Ward played out his rookie contract, which included a fifth-year option season, and re-signed to stay in San Francisco on a one-year deal in 2019. After Ward played a key role for the NFC champion 49ers defense that season, he received a three-year, $28.5MM offer. That deal initially called for an $8.4MM base salary this season. That number is now much lower.

While this move will raise Ward’s 2022 cap figure, it gives the 49ers some additional flexibility going into this season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Re-Sign Jimmie Ward

The 49ers have been forced to reshape their defense, but they’re still looking to hold on to their own where ever possible. That’s what they did with safety Jimmie Ward, who has been re-upped on a new three-year deal worth $28.5MM, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). 

[RELATED: 49ers Trade Buckner To Colts]

Ward, 28, has been set back by injuries throughout his career, but he stayed healthy for the most part and shined in 2019. The veteran tallied a career-best 65 tackles in 13 starts, an indicator that even better things could be on the horizon.

Last year, the Niners kept Ward with a one-year prove-it deal. This time around, he has the security of a multi-year pact that will pay him $9.5MM per annum.

The Northern Illinois product was an integral part of SF’s secondary last year. On the whole, the unit graded out No. 2 in defensive DVOA. He also settled in at the free safety position – before last year, he saw time at multiple spots as coaches tried to figure out the best way to use him.

All along, Ward has said that he wanted to return to the NFC champs.

“This is where I would like to be,” Ward said in February (via Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area). “I like to continue playing for this great organization.”

Now, he’s under contract with the Niners through the 2022 season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

POLL: Who’s The Best Free Agent Safety?

As free agency inches closer, we’ll continue previewing the impending market. One of the most interesting comparisons surrounds the safety position.

Anthony Harris and Justin Simmons are the consensus top two options at the position, but determining which should is the best option for a team in need of a new safety is a more difficult proposition. Harris, has been an established and proven veteran, while Simmons jumped to the top of the pack this year.

Harris, at 28, has ranked among the league’s best safeties in his time with the Vikings. Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), Harris ranked among the five best-graded safeties in both 2018 and 2019. Over the past two seasons, he’s nabbed 9 interceptions, recorded 17 passes defended, and 106 tackles.

While Simmons does not have the longevity and track record of Harris, the Bronco graded as the 2nd best safety this season, per PFF, receiving a 90.8 grade. Simmons recorded 4 interceptions, 15 passes defended, and 93 tackles this season alone, but never graded above 80.0 prior to this season.

Most compelling to his case, at just 26 years old, Simmons could be poised to be one of the best centerfielders in football, but will teams want to gamble on that over Harris’ proven track record?

There are a number of other solid options at safety including Jimmie Ward and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but neither combine the health history and top end recent performance of Harris and Simmons.

Which safety do you prefer? Let us know in the poll below.

Latest On 49ers, Jimmie Ward

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.

49ers Notes: McKinnon, Ward, Verrett, Hurd

Jerick McKinnon‘s 49ers tenure may very well end without him ever taking a snap for San Francisco. The team placed the running back on injured reserve last week, ending his 2019 season before it could start. McKinnon tore an ACL just before the start of last season, and has had complications while recovering. McKinnon had another knee surgery earlier this week, but it turns out it was unrelated to his ACL, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports. His ACL is apparently fine, which McKinnon said was “reassuring.”

Instead it was a separate issue in the same knee, although it’s not clear exactly what that issue is. He’ll miss his second straight season, but McKinnon still really wants to play for the 49ers. “I love this team,” he said. “That’s why I came here. I love the coaching staff, the whole organization, the Yorks, John (Lynch), Kyle (Shanahan), all the coaches. Coach (Bobby) Turner and everyone has been supportive — behind me, 100 percent, and there’s nothing more you can ask for.” McKinnon wants to be back, but it seems likely the team will want to move on. McKinnon, who signed a four-year $30MM deal last offseason, is scheduled to make $6.5MM in 2020. The 49ers still have a solid backfield with Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and others, so he’d likely have to take a significant pay-cut at the very least to be brought back.

Here’s more from San Francisco:

  • Their defense is going to be banged up in Week 1. Defensive end Dee Ford has been dealing with a nagging injury but is going to play, while fellow pass-rusher Nick Bosa and cornerback Jason Verrett are both questionable. Now they’ll be without starting safety Jimmie Ward, who had surgery after breaking a finger in Wednesday’s practice, per Matt Barrows of The Athletic. Ward has been ruled out for the team’s opener against Tampa Bay, although Barrows notes that he might be able to play with a cast on in Week 2. Second-year player Tarvarius Moore will start in his place.
  • Speaking of Verrett, the oft-injured corner received a nice chunk of change for making the team’s initial 53-man roster. Verrett got a $500K bonus for being on the active roster Week 1, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Verrett, a first-round pick of the Chargers’ back in 2014, signed a one-year deal with San Francisco earlier this offseason. Verrett has always been extremely talented and made the Pro Bowl back in 2015, but he’s appeared in just five games over the past three seasons. Verrett has already dealt with a torn ACL and Achilles in his young career, and he missed the entire preseason with an ankle injury.
  • Ward isn’t the only player they’ll be without in Week 1. Rookie receiver Jalen Hurd isn’t going to play against the Bucs and he could miss multiple games, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 49ers drafted Hurt 67th overall back in April, and he has the potential to turn into an intriguing weapon. Hurd rushed for nearly 3,000 yards in his college career as a running back and then transitioned to receiver, racking up 946 yards through the air in his senior season at Baylor. It should be interesting too see how Kyle Shanahan uses him, but unfortunately it looks like we might have to wait a few weeks for his debut as he deals with a back injury.

West Notes: Harris, 49ers, Chiefs, Raiders

Shortly after agreeing to a redone 2019 contract, Chris Harris announced intentions to bet on himself in advance of a 2020 free agency venture. The decorated Broncos cornerback bypassed free agency in 2015, signing a five-year extension, but is targeting top cornerback money next year. As for the chances of the Broncos being the team that authorizes such a deal, the soon-to-be 30-year-old defender said that would be the goal.

I’m definitely giving them a shot. Definitely,” Harris said, via NFL.com, of the prospect of re-signing with the Broncos after this season. “The situation could always be salvaged and worked out. So, I’ll go do my thing, and then at the end of the year, whatever, I’ll definitely give them a fair chance, for sure.

I’ve always said I want to retire here and that’s always been my mentality here. So, if I got to go show them in 16 games that I want to retire here, then I’m going to go do.”

When the Broncos and Harris discussed his deal this offseason, both sides preferred a long-term extension. But the parties were so far apart they shifted to this rare pay-raise agreement. The Broncos are projected to hold $50MM-plus in 2020 cap space, and while Harris would stand to profile as their most talented free agent-to-be, it appears this situation can be tabled for several months.

Here is the latest coming out of the West divisions:

  • After converting college safety Tarvarius Moore to cornerback his rookie year, the 49ers recently moved him back. Jimmie Ward‘s broken collarbone prompted this change, with The Athletic’s Matt Barrows noting (subscription required) Moore was stationed at corner as recently as last week. DC Robert Saleh praised Moore’s versatility. Fellow 2018 safety draftee D.J. Reed is also recovering from offseason surgery, so Moore’s latest position switch might not be permanent.
  • Given a starting role by two teams thus far in his career, Carlos Hyde is again set to work as a backup. The Chiefs plan to use Damien Williams as their starter over the former 49ers and Browns first-stringer, OC Eric Bieniemy said (via 610 Sports’ Brandon Kiley, on Twitter). Summoned into action because of Kareem Hunt‘s midseason exit and a Spencer Ware injury, Williams averaged 5.1 yards per carry during the regular season and scored four playoff touchdowns. Coming into his surprise promotion, Williams averaged 3.6 yards per tote in four seasons as a Dolphins backup. A year after signing a three-year, $15.25MM deal with the Browns, Hyde is attached to a one-year, $1.5MM Chiefs pact.
  • Trent Brown did not voice a preference to play left or right tackle, and the 6-foot-8, 380-pound Raiders blocker said moving back to right tackle will be less of a transition than sliding to the left side with the Patriots last year. The Raiders moved Brown because they prefer Kolton Miller on the left side, OC Greg Olson said. “Certainly, we had a chance to study Trent before when he was in San Francisco. We’ve seen him on both sides,” Olson said, via Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. “We’ve had a chance to have Kolton, obviously, on the left side, so that’s where we’ve started this spring.”

Bay Area Rumors: Breida, 49ers, Raiders

Many 49ers are not healthy as the team goes through its OTAs. In addition to the likes of Jerick McKinnon, Weston Richburg, Jason Verrett and Kwon Alexander, the team lost one of its running backs because of a weightlifting injury. The 49ers will not have Matt Breida available until at least training camp. The running back, who battled maladies last season before ending the year on IR, suffered a partially torn pectoral muscle while lifting recently, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. San Francisco is already without McKinnon and backup Raheem Mostert, who is battling for a roster spot now that the team employs Tevin Coleman. While torn pectorals of any kind are obviously a concern, Kyle Shanahan said Breida will not require surgery. But the 49ers’ optimal backfield still has a ways to go before coming together.

Here is the latest from the NFL’s Bay Area teams, in their final offseason sharing a region.

  • While Breida is expected to return before the start of the regular season, Garrett Celek‘s timeline is more concerning. The eighth-year 49ers tight end suffered a concussion in Week 16 last season and has yet to be cleared from concussion protocol, according to Shanahan. Celek is also dealing with a back injury. The soon-to-be 31-year-old tight end resides as the 49ers’ second-longest-tenured player, having been with the team since 2012. The 49ers did draft Kaden Smith in the sixth round but, beyond Celek, do not have much at tight end behind George Kittle.
  • Jimmie Ward‘s injury likely will not keep him out for the rumored three-month span, with Maiocco believing that to be on the cautious side of the safety’s timeline. Should they get Ward back by training camp, the 49ers are not likely to sign a veteran safety — like Eric Berry or Tre Boston — to replace Ward, Maiocco adds. Although Ward is back on only a one-year deal, the 49ers believe he is their best defensive back when healthy. On a team that employs Richard Sherman, that’s certainly a notable distinction.
  • The Jon GrudenMike Mayock regime reshuffled their front office and scouting staff recently. The roles of recently hired staffers Dwayne Joseph, DuJuan Daniels and Walter Juliff are now known. Daniels, who joined the Raiders after a Patriots tenure, is now Mayock’s assistant director of player personnel. Joseph, who came over from the Eagles, will become the Raiders’ director of pro personnel. A former Cowboys exec, Juliff is now a senior advisor to the GM, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Scott Bair tweets. Recently with the Senior Bowl and the Bills, Jack Gilmore is now in place as Raiders scouting coordinator. The Raiders also hired recent Eagles scouting coordinator John Hill as a pro scout. Lastly, Oakland promoted Trey Scott and Teddy Atlas (not that one) to assistant player personnel director and assistant director of college scouting, respectively. Scott was one of the few staffers to help with the Raiders’ draft, after Mayock dismissed the scouts prior to draft weekend.

49ers S Jimmie Ward Fractures Collarbone

49ers safety Jimmie Ward suffered a fractured collarbone while diving for a ball during Thursday’s organized team activities, according to Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter links). However, he should be able to return near the start of training camp, tweets Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Ward, a first-round pick in 2014, is no stranger to injury. As Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes (Twitter links), Ward finished the season on injured reserve in four of his first five NFL campaigns. He’s also broken his collarbone in the past, doing so in 2016.

The 27-year-old Ward has played all over the 49ers’ secondary, dabbling at both slot and outside corner in addition to playing safety. He was expected to compete with Adrian Colbert for free safety duties this offseason, but given that he’ll likely miss most if not all or training camp, Ward will be far behind in that positional battle.

Ward re-signed with the 49ers in March, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4.5MM. However, roughly $1.5MM of that total, plus another $500K in incentives, is tied to Ward being on the field, so his most recent injury could affect his earnings if he suffers a setback.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers To Re-Sign DB Jimmie Ward

Jimmie Ward is sticking around San Francisco. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the defensive back will re-sign with the 49ers. It’s a one-year pact worth $5MM. Adam Caplan clarifies that the deal is for $4.5MM with another $500K in incentives (Twitter link).

The 2014 first-round pick has spent his entire five-year career with the 49ers, but he’s yet to establish a definitive role with the organization. On the flip side, the defensive back has shown some unique versatility throughout his career, which probably explains why the 49ers were relatively eager to welcome back. Matt Barrows of The Athletic tweets that while Ward primarily played cornerback last season, he’s expected to play free safety in 2019.

The 27-year-old ultimately appeared in nine games (seven starts) with the 49ers in 2018, compiling 24 tackles and one forced fumble. Pro Football Focus wasn’t particularly fond of his performance, ranking him in the bottom-10 among eligible safeties. Ward suffered a broken forearm late in the season that ultimately landed him on the injured reserve.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Rumors: Redskins, Childress, 49ers

One of Eric Weddle‘s many suitors came from the NFC East. The Redskins inquired about the safety, according to NBC Sports Washington’s Ben Standig, but Weddle preferred the Rams’ proposal. Washington may be a spot for one of the many starter-caliber safeties on this year’s market, with the team having waived D.J. Swearinger and with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix‘s contract having expired.

Here is the latest from Washington, along with other NFC teams, with the legal tampering period less than 48 hours away.

  • The Redskins’ Case Keenum trade frees them up to make more competitive offers to non-quarterbacks in free agency, instead of seeing Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor proposals complicate the team’s plan. However, Washington is still expected to add at this spot this offseason, and Standig notes it won’t be a Josh Johnson reunion — barring a Colt McCoy departure. Another Johnson pact was previously mentioned as a possibility, but that may no longer be in the cards. Washington profiles as a possible quarterback destination in this year’s draft, but in picking at No. 15 and unlikely to trade up, this may be one of the teams that waits for 2020’s higher-profile group of quarterbacks.
  • The rumors of Markus Golden hitting the market look accurate, with AZCardinals.com’s Mike Jurecki tweeting the veteran edge rusher is set for free agency. The Cardinals and Golden engaged in talks earlier this offseason, but nothing of consequence emerged from those discussions. While Golden stands to benefit from the franchise tags handed out to the top-tier pass rushers who could have hit the market, and Jurecki posits a possible Golden reunion with former Cards DC James Bettcher via Giants signing, the former second-round pick has not been productive since the 2016 season. Golden’s ACL tear in 2017 sidetracked his career, halting the momentum he’d created with a 12.5-sack 2016.
  • Brad Childress may be ready to circle back to the Bears. Affiliated with Matt Nagy‘s first Bears staff briefly, Childress then bolted for the Alliance of American Football. But he did not last until the AAF’s opener. However, Childress looks set to rejoin Nagy in Chicago, with NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweeting the former Vikings HC is expected to serve in an offensive consulting role under Nagy. Childress and Nagy worked together with the Chiefs. Childress also retired after the 2017 season, but that turned out to be quite short-lived.
  • The 49ers still want to bring back Jimmie Ward, per NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, but it doesn’t appear their interest goes beyond the one-year offer they were dangling for the 2014 first-round pick. Ward was thought to be on the outs in San Francisco, but the team did not receive much consistency from its secondary last season. San Francisco’s staff graded the versatile defensive back as the team’s best secondary cog, Maiocco adds, prior to his season-ending injury in November, Maiocco adds.
  • The contract the 49ers gave kicker Jonathan Brown is a two-year deal, the team announced. San Francisco used its franchise tag on Robbie Gould. Brown was with the Bengals during the past three training camps but has yet to play in a regular-season game.