The San Francisco 49ers have numerous decisions to make with regard to their roster and the 2017 NFL draft, and the safety position could remain tricky. The team has until Wednesday, May 3 to decide whether or not to exercise the fifth year option on defensive back Jimmie Ward, and general manager John Lynch said the team has not made a final decision yet.
Lynch said the plan is for Ward to get work at both cornerback and free safety as the team works through the offseason workout program. Mock drafts have connected the 49ers to safeties Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams, as well as cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Ward is signed through 2017, with the option for 2018, so they have some time with him, but he’s not locked in for the long-term.
If the 49ers decide to exercise the option, Ward would be paid the option price for a cornerback. The pay is based on the position at which the player played the most snaps in his third year. That was last for Ward, and he played exclusively at cornerback. Last year, the cornerback fifth year option was worth $8,026,000. The safety option was $5,676,000. Given the 49ers sizable cap space, either number is not really a huge deal.
It is also worth noting that the option is not fully guaranteed until the start of the 2018 league year. It is guaranteed for injury, so if he suffered a serious injury, it could lock in. But otherwise, it seems like a formality, albeit an important one.