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49ers to experiment with Jimmie Ward at outside cornerback this offseason

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The 49ers have several safety options, and questions of cornerback depth.

The San Francisco 49ers start their offseason workout program in three weeks, and it sounds like we could see some experimenting with the secondary. John Lynch is in Orlando for the annual March owners’ meeting, and in a sit-down with Jennifer Chan and the rest of the 49ers beat writers on hand, Lynch said the team is going to experiment this offseason with Jimmie Ward at cornerback.

Ward was a nickel back his first two seasons with the 49ers, then moved to outside corner in 2016. This past year, he moved to free safety, but once again, injuries cost him playing time. Jaquiski Tartt split time between strong safety and free safety, and then Adrian Colbert emerged as a viable free safety option the back half of the season.

Last year proved how much injuries can impact a unit. The team is likely not going to re-sign Eric Reid, leaving them with three potential safeties in Ward, Tartt, and Colbert. The addition of Sherman opposite Ahkello Witherspoon gives them a starting lineup along with K’Waun Williams at nickel, but they need more bodies at the position.

The 49ers do have Greg Mabin to compete at the position, and Lynch seems fairly high on him. He seemed prepared to take Dontae Johnson’s starting job, but a calf strain sidelined him. He is expected to compete for a depth role behind Witherspoon and Sherman.

The 49ers have been connected to cornerback prospects like Denzel Ward and Joshua Jackson. The 2018 NFL Draft is considered particularly deep at the position. I suspect we see the team add at least one more cornerback in the draft. Ward is a free agent after this season, while Mabin is an unproven 2017 UDFA. If someone like Mabin can emerge as a viable depth option, all the better, but in the meantime, more depth is necessary.