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49ers’ longest-tenured player could walk in free agency

Feb 19, 2023 at 8:30 AM--

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After 49ers fans rejoiced over the Philadelphia Eagles losing to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII, the next order of business is how they will get over the hump, make it back to the big game, and the upcoming free agency this spring.

One key free agent the 49ers may have to consider re-signing is safety Jimmie Ward.

For nine seasons with the 49ers, Ward has never had any personal accolades such as All-Pros or Pro Bowls. Still, his versatility makes him a hot commodity in free agency. In addition, his play on the field has helped lead the team with the defense ranked in the top 10 four times, helping the 49ers to three NFC Championships and a Super Bowl appearance. ranks Ward as the 17th-best safety in the league, but in his new role as the nickel corner this past season, Ward allowed 6.7 yards per reception and allowed three touchdowns in 12 games. When he played at safety, Ward was known for taking away many big plays and was not shy on run defense.

After the embarrassing loss in the NFC Championship Game, Ward said he is a good nickel back and safety.

"I'm a good football player, so it's going to help me in free agency," Ward said.

For nine seasons, the former Northern Illinois Huskie said he is open to returning to the 49ers.

According to Niners Nation, Ward said he wants to be paid like a safety, but the 49ers want to make him the highest-paid nickel cornerback. That could drive down his price.

The 31-year-old is one of the longest-tenured 49ers next to cornerback Dontae Johnson. The 49ers drafted Ward in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He started this past season on injured reserve and lost his starting spot to Tashaun Gipson, and with the emergence of Talanoa Hufanga, Ward was moved to nickel corner.

On an Instagram story, Ward told how 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told him to either play nickel corner or get benched because Gipson and Hufanga are playing well.

"When I told Coach Kyle, I said, 'Hey Coach Kyle.' I was like, 'Put me back at my position. I want to play safety,'" Ward said. "He looked at me—you know, Coach Kyle laid back, he cool—he was like, 'What you want to do, dude? Do you want to ride the bench?' I was like, 'Oh, s--t.' This man just told me, Do I want to ride the bench?"

The head coach would rave about how Ward adapted to the new position.

"It's a huge credit to him and the coaching staff with just how far he's come learning that position and how talented he's always been and enough to play it," Shanahan said on January 9.

According to a feature by Larry Rupp, Ward is the eighth-ranked safety in the upcoming free agency.

In the article, Rupp said it would not be a surprise for Ward to return to the team because he played his entire NFL career with San Francisco, but his versatility should draw interest from other teams.

With Ward, Gipson, and Tarvarius Moore becoming free agents, Hufanga and George Odum are the only safeties signed on the roster for next season. Ward could use this as a bargaining chip to get top safety money, or the 49ers could let him walk in free agency and take a safety in the upcoming NFL draft.

After the loss to the Eagles, linebacker Fred Warner said no matter what happens, he loves Ward.

  • Written by:
    Sports has been my first love since I was 12 years old. At one point I wanted to play football professionally. I started to take photography as a hobby in my teenage years but this was when I followed sports. I started to listen to sports radio, I found my true calling and it was to be a sports talk show host. Though I follow football and basketball, I started to have a new love of cultures around the world. After graduating from San Antonio College in 2018, I worked for the Castroville News Bulletin before going to A&M San Antonio to get my communications degree. Since I have written for the Ranger of San Antonio College, the News Bulletin and the Mesquite of Texas A&M San Antonio, I met many people and went to a lot of events. My major milestone was being in the press box of the San Antonio Commanders game for the Mesquite and being apart of a press conference with the Medina County Sheriff and other local news outlets. When I am not doing anything, I like to watch old cartoons on the DC Universe, play video games such as Mega Man and the Mass Effect series. I have also created Youtube channel called "Anger Management" with my friend Aaron Donnell.
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