Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports


49ers Top 20 for ‘20: #10 Jimmie Ward

Gilbert Brink
Mar 3, 2020 at 7:28 AM


The most important ability is availability. In 2019, for the first time since 2015, free safety Jimmie Ward played 16 games in a season. For much of his career, Ward felt like a man without a country. Constantly being shifted around the secondary nobody knew what Ward was, aside from injury prone.

In 2019 Ward started off the season unavailable. This was a common theme for Ward, who has lovingly gained the nickname Jimmie "Hospital" Ward from a portion of the 49ers fanbase. His absence gave free safety Tarvarius Moore an opportunity to take over as the starter. Nonetheless, 3 games into the season Moore relinquished that job back to Ward after numerous examples of taking poor angles and blowing assignments.

This was a disappointing development. The 49ers had hoped the more athletic Moore would be the future of the position, and now they had to turn back to a man who through 5 seasons only suited up for 51 of a possible 80 games. To the surprise of many, Ward was the perfect fit who took the 49ers defense from competitor to dominant force. Ward's exceptional play in the "eraser" role, stopping big runs from becoming huge runs and putting the clamps on the deep ball, was essential to the 49ers success and their #1 ranked passing defense.

Jimmie Ward is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Ward has been on record stating he would love to return to San Francisco and continue playing next to high school team mate SS Jaquiski Tartt, but also recognizes that the business side of the game may prevent that.

2019 Performance


Ward's impact on the 49ers secondary was apparent to the viewing eye. When examining play through the box score Ward's contributions stood out as well. During the regular season Ward totaled 65 tackles, 0 interceptions, 8 passes defended, 1 sack and 2 tackles for loss. According to Pro Football Focus Ward earned a grade of 84.2, the very best season of his 6-year career. That 84.2 was nearly 10 points higher than the man many 49ers fans coveted in FA in 2019, Earl Thomas III's 74.7.

2020 Cost


Ward is an unrestricted free agent in 2020. The cost of him returning to San Francisco is unknown, but looking around the league at the highest paid safeties can create a hypothetical price tag for Ward. The highest paid safeties in the NFL make around $14 million per year. These are the premier players at the position. Although Ward is very good, he is not considered at that level. This free agent class will have a few safeties teams will be eager to sign, as both Devin McCourty and Anthony Harris will be available, so Ward's value is minimized by the supply and demand factor as well. As a long-term signing the 49ers could be looking at a deal that would reach between $9-11 million per year, as a franchise tag candidate they're looking at a 1-year guarantee of $13-14 million.

Future Outlook


It is difficult to imagine the 49ers defense being as good without Ward as it was with him. These 49ers have Super Bowl problems, not 2-14 problems. Keeping all hands on deck is a beautiful concept but it isn't a reality. The coaches love Jimmie Ward (hence him making it through Harbaugh, Tomsula, Kelly and 3 years of Shanahan), but championship teams cannot fall in love with injury prone role players who will cost you 8 figures per season. If the 49ers are wise, they let Ward walk and draft a FS in April.



Next: No. 9 - Joe Staley
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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