Jimmie Ward

NFC Notes: Ward, Giants, Bucs, Rollins

Jimmie Ward‘s interesting career with the 49ers looks set for another turn. The fifth-year player’s been shuttled to different positions in each of his four years, with four coaching staffs annually shifting him between safety and cornerback. This year, it doesn’t look like Ward will have a surefire path to remain a starter. Having started 24 games for the past three seasons at either corner or safety, Ward now is set to be a super-sub in Robert Saleh‘s secondary. Second-year safety Adrian Colbert usurped Ward, and once Richard Sherman is ready to play, he’ll take Ward’s place at cornerback alongside Ahkello Witherspoon, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. He may not be in line to start in the slot, either, with K’Waun Williams back.

It’s not going to be easy for (Ward) to start at any of those five (positons),” Kyle Shanahan said, via Branch, of the 2014 first-rounder who’s set to make $8.52MM this season. “Right now, he’s trying to do it at corner. We’ll reassess this at the end of OTAs and see how it is in training camp. … If Jimmie doesn’t earn a starting role, there’s also a good chance he’s the first backup at every single position: strong safety, free safety, nickel (corner), (outside) corner, because he’s capable of being a starter at all of those positions.”

Here’s the latest from some NFC franchises, continuing with the latest on a player who has a better path to a starting lineup.

  • Will Hernandez‘s starting spot will likely come at the expense of John Jerry, per Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. The second-round pick is expected to make a strong push to move into the Giants‘ lineup, and with Big Blue signing Patrick Omameh earlier this offseason, Jerry may be the odd man out. The team could be keeping the veteran around as insurance, but it would cost the Giants more to cut him than it would yield in cap savings. Jerry’s the longest-tenured Giants offensive line starter, doing so since 2014. Both he and Omameh graded as top-40 guards last season, in the view of Pro Football Focus.
  • The BuccaneersUDFA contingent houses some players who received hefty guarantees to sign. Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen received $50K guaranteed to sign, in the form of a $15K signing bonus and a $35K base salary guarantee, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Temple tackle Cole Boozer received $45K to sign ($20K signing bonus, $25K base guarantee) and running back Shaun Wilson (Duke) collected a $10K signing bonus and saw Tampa Bay guarantee $10K of his base salary. Auman adds Western Michigan tight end Donnie Ernsberger received a $15K bonus.
  • Former Packers second-round pick Quinten Rollins is back working with his team on a limited basis during OTAs, Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes. Rollins tore an Achilles’ tendon in October and isn’t a lock for the roster, given both the severity of his injury and the Packers having drafted corners with their first two 2018 picks. Green Bay did deal Damarious Randall to Cleveland, however, opening up one spot. But the team also added former starter Tramon Williams in free agency. Cohen reports some in the Packers’ scouting department believe Rollins should be moved to safety, but it’s unclear whether the coaching staff concurs. Brian Gutekunst has said Rollins will try to work his way back into the cornerback contingent.

NFC West Rumors: 49ers, Suh, Seahawks

Because of the lack of a solidified position, Jimmie Ward has enjoyed a unique start to his career. He’s been shuttled between cornerback and safety throughout his run with the 49ers, and despite returning to play for the same defensive coordinator in a second consecutive for the first time as a pro, Ward still doesn’t have a surefire position. Robert Saleh used him at safety last season after Jim O’Neil stationed him at cornerback in 2016. He saw action at both spots under Eric Mangini in 2015. Now, the 49ers are again ready to see if he can play outside corner again.

Jimmie Ward is a guy who’s played some outside corner in his career,” John Lynch said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “We’re going to experiment with that this offseason and see if that’s viable and give him some time there.”

The 49ers have Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon penciled in as cornerback starters, and Maiocco reports they don’t intend to re-sign Eric Reid. So, keeping Ward at safety would make more sense from a personnel standpoint. But the team nevertheless intends to persist experimenting with the fifth-year player as a corner. However, Maiocco notes the 49ers view 2017 seventh-rounder Adrian Colbert as a possible starting-caliber safety alongside Jaquiski Tartt.

Here’s the latest from the NFC West:

  • Speaking of positioning, the Rams will play Ndamukong Suh at nose tackle in their 3-4 base set, Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com reports. Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers will play outside in Wade Phillips‘ base set, and Suh will play a position at which he’s lined up around 3 percent of his career, per Gonzalez. “Those are things that we talked about with Ndamukong,” Sean McVay said earlier this week. “We wanted to make sure, ‘Hey, do you feel good about the way we envision you?” Suh, who’s played only for teams that utilized 4-3 sets in his eight-year career, will see plenty of time as a 4-3 defensive tackle once the Rams are in sub packages. Los Angeles used sub sets 70 percent of the time last season.
  • Expected to be in the mix for wide receivers this offseason, the 49ers instead backed off of this year’s top UFA targets. Maiocco reports they weren’t interested in either Sammy Watkins or Allen Robinson but are expected to target a wideout in the draft. “What you don’t want to do is have a bunch of guys who are OK but are paid like the best,” Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s where you get in trouble and have to stay away from in free agency. It’s usually why the draft is the best way to go.” San Francisco extended Marquise Goodwin this offseason and has Pierre Garcon due back as well.
  • UFA signee Jonathan Cooper will line up at right guard initially for the 49ers. Laken Tomlinson will slot in at left guard, per Maiocco, who adds a slimmed-down Joshua Garnett will compete with Cooper for the right guard job. Tomlinson started 15 games at left guard for the 49ers last season. Last year’s right guard, Brandon Fusco, left in free agency. A 2016 first-rounder, Garnett started 11 games as a rookie.
  • The Seahawks are again in need of a backup quarterback. The team waived Trevone Boykin, and Austin Davis remains unsigned. Colin Kaepernick does not appear to be in the team’s plans, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. Kaepernick visited the Seahawks last year before the team signed Davis. Geno Smith met with the team this week, and Mark Sanchez has also been linked to Seattle. Sanchez’s former backup with the Jets, Kellen Clemens, also has ties to new Seahawks OC Brian Schottenheimer. The 34-year-old backup could interest the Seahawks, per Henderson. Clemens also worked under Schottenheimer with the Rams.

NFC West Notes: Garoppolo, Peterson, Ward

49ers GM John Lynch is in constant contact with Jimmy Garoppolo‘s agent Don Yee, but their conversations have not included contract negotiations.

It’s kind of refreshing to talk to him because of the way he’s dealt with Tom [Brady], a lot of people have learned: He really wants these guys just to go focus on their business,” Lynch told KNBR (transcription via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle). “We’ve agreed that ‘Hey, there’s going to be a time for that, let’s keep in regular contact.’ But, no, we haven’t started discussions. I’m sure that will come in due time. And we’re looking forward to that time.”

Recently, Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan said that he does not expect an extension for the quarterback to be completed before the end of the year. Garoppolo is technically eligible for free agency this offseason, but the Niners are expected to use the franchise tag on him if they cannot hammer out a long-term deal.

Here’s more from the NFC West:

  • When asked if Adrian Peterson could be on the Cardinals in 2018, coach Bruce Arians said yes (Twitter link via Darren Urban of the team’s site). Arians added that Peterson and the returning David Johnson could co-exist. On Friday, Peterson announced that he intends to play next year, but the Cardinals have the option of cutting him without any financial penalty.
  • An extension for safety Jaquiski Tartt appears to be high on the 49ers‘ list of priorities this offseason, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Tartt’s season ended in early November with a broken forearm, but was among the team’s leaders in tackles. This will be the first offseason in which the Niners are able to negotiate a multi-year extension with the 2015 second-round pick.
  • Meanwhile, the 49ers have defensive back Jimmie Ward under contract for next year thanks to his fifth-year option, but they’ll have to think long and hard about retaining him, Maiocco writes. Ward’s inability to stay on the field (he’s missed 14 games over the last two seasons) could deter the team from bringing him back at that rate. His ability to play either cornerback or free safety is a plus, but it’s also something of a double-edged sword in this case. Because he played cornerback last year, his option price for 2018 jumped from $5.597MM to $8.526MM.
  • 49ers like safety Eric Reid, but it’s hard to imagine them getting into a bidding war for him in free agency with Tartt, Ward, and Adrian Colbert under contract, according to Maiocco. But, at the right price, the Niners would probably welcome him back.

49ers To Place Jimmie Ward On IR

The 49ers will place safety Jimmie Ward and offensive tackle Garry Gilliam on season-ending injured reserve, head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters, including Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com.Jimmie Ward (Vertical)

Ward, 26, suffered a broken arm in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, so his placement on IR doesn’t come as a surprise. The former first-round pick had started six of seven games for the 49ers in 2017, but had only graded as the No. 69 safety among 87 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. San Francisco exercised Ward’s fifth-year option earlier this year, so he’ll back in the Bay Area in 2018. In the meantime, the 49ers will consider moving Eric Reid back to safety following a short stay at linebacker, tweets Matt Maiocco of the Bay Area News Group.

Gilliam, meanwhile, has barely played this season despite several injuries along the 49ers’ offensive line. He’d seen action on just 38 total snaps after inking a one-year, $2.2MM restricted free agent offer sheet with San Francisco (that the Seahawks declined to match). Gilliam does have 31 games of starting experience under his belt, but he’ll now hit 2018 free agency coming off an injury-marred campaign.

Ward and Gilliam aren’t the only 49ers’ players dealing with health questions, however. Left tackle Joe Staley will miss at least two games after suffering an orbital bone fracture on Sunday, while defensive lineman Solomon Thomas — who is dealing with a low-grade MCL sprain, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com — will also miss roughly two weeks, Shanhan announced. While the winless 49ers aren’t going anywhere in 2017, Staley’s injury likely negates any chance that San Francisco would trade him before Tuesday’s deadline.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Joe Staley, Jimmie Ward Sustain Injuries

Both Joe Staley and Jimmie Ward did not finish Sunday’s Week 8 game for the 49ers. The former suffered an eye injury that will require an overnight stay in Philadelphia, and the latter could be out for a while because of a broken arm.

Ward sustained a broken forearm in San Francisco’s loss, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter). This stands to put Ward’s season in jeopardy. A starting defensive back in the 49ers secondary for the third season, Ward has finished two of his three previous NFL campaigns on IR.

The 49ers have not announced precisely what injury Staley is dealing with, but Rapoport notes the 11th-year tackle may have broken his orbital bone. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com confirmed this, tweeting Staley’s orbital bone is indeed broken. However, Schefter notes this is not believed to be a season-ending injury.

Staley’s injury occurred while on the other end of a Fletcher Cox block during an Eagles interception-return sequence.

Staley’s only missed three games since the start of the 2011 season. A report earlier today indicated the 49ers would be willing to move Staley, along with other veterans, before Tuesday’s trade deadline. This would stand to throw a wrench into any Staley deal. Staley’s said he would not like to be traded, despite the 49ers being in a full-scale rebuild.

Ward is under team control through 2018 via the fifth-year option.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Veach, Mahomes, Raiders, 49ers

Andy Reid credited recently hired GM Brett Veach of alerting him to the likes of DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Fletcher Cox during the duo’s time together with the Eagles. The new Chiefs GM’s latest pet project was a player who figures to have a big say in whether the franchise can challenge for a Super Bowl title in the years to come. Reid said Veach was “all in on” Patrick Mahomes during the franchise’s draft preparation and brought the Texas Tech prospect onto he and then-GM John Dorsey‘s radar.

If he brings you (a player) and he’s that sold on him, you better take a look at him,” Reid said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star. “He’s brought to me (guys) like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Fletcher Cox — all these guys, and it was early, before anybody really had a beat on it. And (back then) … I’m going, ‘Wow, he’s got kind of a knack for this thing.”

The Chiefs have brought in several cornerstone players during Dorsey and Veach’s time as top execs, with Travis Kelce, Marcus Peters and Tyreek Hill becoming first-team All-Pros in 2016. Mahomes recently commandeered Kansas City’s backup quarterback job.

Here’s the latest out of the Western divisions.

  • Viewed as the AFC West favorite despite the Chiefs’ sweep in this rivalry last season, the Raiders have seen their backup quarterback picture clear up to some degree in recent days. Jack Del Rio said (via Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle) said E.J. Manuel has outperformed Connor Cook so far and is in the No. 2 spot behind Derek Carr. A former Bills first-rounder, Manuel signed a modest one-year deal with the Raiders early in free agency.
  • The Raiders’ current depth chart has two recent Day 3 draft picks as starters at the non-rush linebacker spots, with second-year sixth-rounder Cory James stationed as Oakland’s first-team weakside ‘backer and fifth-round rookie Marquel Lee in the middle. Lee’s spot may be less certain, per Tafur, who adds the Raiders will likely look to the waiver wire to add another inside linebacker if the Wake Forest product falters. The Raiders signed Perry Riley midway through last season, and the former Redskins starter became a quality performer for the Silver and Black. Still a free agent, the 29-year-old Riley would seemingly be an option. Reggie McKenzie said the 2016 starter was a consideration, but that was back in May. The Dolphins passed on Riley as a Raekwon McMillan replacement, choosing to sign Rey Maualuga instead.
  • The 49ers entered camp uncertain if they had one starting-caliber guard on their roster, let alone two, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com notes. Brandon Fusco will play right guard, but the 49ers are on the lookout for outside help opposite the longtime Vikings cog, Maiocco reports. Zane Beadles is penciled in on the other side, with Joshua Garnett sidelined due to knee surgery.
  • Jimmie Ward will return to safety this season after a lengthy cornerback experiment, but the 49ers have yet to see him work at that spot during camp. Maiocco reports the 49ers expect the fourth-year defensive back to be cleared this week. He suffered a hamstring injury during San Francisco’s conditioning tests.
  • Maiocco adds recently signed corner K’Waun Williams is in position to function as the 49ers’ top nickel back. He’s in the lead over 2016 third-rounder Will Redmond for that job. Neither Williams nor Redmond played last season. A torn ACL during his final college season led to Redmond missing 2016, and a controversial injury ended Williams’ time with the Browns. Cleveland’s two-year slot corner was not on a team last season but participated in a lengthy visit tour before deciding on a one-year, $765K deal with the 49ers.
  • The Seahawks will have a decision to make on Luke Joeckel‘s position after starting left tackle George Fant tore his ACL Friday night.

49ers To Pick Up Jimmie Ward’s Option

The fifth-year option decisions are coming in fast and furious. The 49ers have decided to pick up defensive back Jimmie Ward‘s option for the 2018 season, GM John Lynch told reporters. Jimmie Ward (Vertical)

Yeah, it’s looking like that,” Lynch said when asked if the 49ers would pick up Ward’s fifth-year option (via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com). “(I) had no clue when you guys asked me that the other day. I had no idea. I had been focused on the draft. But, (the question) made me go check.”

This was the expected outcome in San Francisco. Ward is now slated to make $8.526MM in 2018, a figure that is guaranteed for injury.

In 2016, Ward moved to cornerback and made eleven starts before being shut down for the year with a shoulder injury. The 25-year-old (26 in July) had two interceptions, 12 passes defensed, one sack, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery while grading out as the league’s No. 45 cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF gave him roughly even marks in coverage and run defense.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Saints, Jags, 49ers, Falcons

Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks is drawing trade interest from multiple teams, but it would take something “real significant” for New Orleans to deal the 23-year-old, head coach Sean Payton told the team’s website (video link). Still, Payton didn’t deny that talks have taken place and he says the Saints are “always listening,” particularly when there are opportunities to improve their defense.

More from around the NFL:

  • Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell says safety Jonathan Cyprien and cornerback Prince Amukamara will hit the open market, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union tweets. The 26-year-old Cyprien was the more impressive of the pair in 2016, when he ranked as Pro Football Focus’ seventh-best safety and amassed 126 tackles and four pass deflections over a career-high 16 starts. Amukamara, 27, often had difficulty staying healthy as a Giant from 2011-15, but last year he appeared in his most games (14) since 2013. And though he failed to record an interception for the first time, Amukamara did rank a respectable 42nd among PFF’s 112 qualified corners.
  • The 49ers plan to transition cornerback Jimmie Ward to free safety in 2017, GM John Lynch told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “We’re excited to give (Ward) an offseason to say, ‘Let’s give this a go,’” said Lynch. “That doesn’t preclude him from playing nickel in some situations, or moving around. I think he brings some great versatility.” Safety isn’t foreign to Ward, who played the position at Northern Illinois and then started a game there with the Niners as a first-round rookie in 2014. As a cornerback, the 25-year-old has logged 34 appearances (18 starts) and two interceptions. PFF rated Ward as the league’s 46th-best corner last season. The Niners will have to decide by May whether to pick up his fifth-year option for 2019.
  • Unless the Lynch-led 49ers acquire a bona fide starting quarterback in free agency or via trade, there will be pre-draft speculation that the team could use a high-round pick – perhaps the No. 2 overall selection – on a signal-caller. Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer stands as one of the top QBs in this year’s class, and Lynch lavished praise on him Thursday (via Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today). “Last night we had an interview with DeShone Kizer,” he said. “This whole thing is not about an interview, but if we’re grading him on that alone, he blew the doors off of it. He’s an impressive young man. His film is impressive, too.” Lynch also called the QB class of 2017 “very talented,” which runs counter to the notion that it’s among the worst ever.
  • The Falcons are likely to re-sign defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw sometime in the next week, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Upshaw joined the Falcons on a $1.25MM deal last year and went on to post modest numbers (23 tackles, a forced fumble and a half-sack) in 13 appearances and five starts.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

49ers Place DB Jimmie Ward On IR

The 49ers announced today that they’ve placed defensive back Jimmie Ward on injured reserve and promoted rookie cornerback Prince Charles Iworah from the practice squad to the active roster. Additionally, San Francisco will promote wide receiver DeAndre Smelter to the 53-man roster, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee.Jimmie Ward (Vertical)

[RELATED: 49ers Audition J’Marcus Webb]

Although he played safety in college, Ward, a first-round pick in 2014, was the 49ers’ nickel corner, and had started a career-high 10 games in 2016. The 25-year-old had posted two interceptions, 12 passes defensed, one sack, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery while grading as the league’s No. 53 cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus. Ward is signed through the 2017 campaign, and San Francisco can add an extra year to his deal by exercising his 2018 fifth-year option.

Iworah, meanwhile, was selected in the sixth round out of Western Kentucky earlier this year. After being waived at final cutdowns, Iworah was quickly signed to the Niners’ taxi squad, and has spent the entire season on the PS. San Francisco will take a look at him over the final two games of the year, as he’ll play behind Tramaine Brock, Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser, and JaCorey Shepherd in the secondary.

Smelter, 25, was expected to contribute to the 49ers’ offense after being drafted in the fourth round in 2015, but he’s yet to appear in an NFL game thus far in his career. Smelter spent his entire rookie campaign on NFI, and after being waived earlier this year, re-signed to San Francisco’s practice squad in October.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Place Three Players On IR

As the 49ers seek their second win of the year, they’ll have to do it without the services of three of their players. Wide receiver Quinton Patton, linebacker Nick Bellore, and tight end Blake Bell will all be shut down for the year, as Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes. Quinton Patton (vertical)

Patton (foot) and Bellore (elbow) both went down early on in Sunday’s embarrassing 41-13 loss to the Falcons. Bell, meanwhile, suffered a shoulder injury after being tackled on a 45-yard pass play in the second quarter. In addition to those three, Maiocco notes that cornerback Jimmie Ward (shoulder), center Marcus Martin (ankle), and nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (undisclosed) also sustained injuries yesterday and their status for Weeks 16 and 17 are not yet known.

The 49ers could fill some of these roster spots from within, if they choose. Wide receiver DeAndre Smelter and linebacker Wynton McManis could be candidates for promotion from the practice squad, Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee tweets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.