On Monday, San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said the team was going to experiment this offseason with defensive back Jimmie Ward getting some time at cornerback. A day later, head coach Kyle Shanahan said Ward would start his OTAs at the cornerback position. He offered some specifics as to why Ward would get the work.
#49ers Jimmie Ward will start OTAs at corner opposite Ahkello Witherspoon— Jennifer Lee Chan (@jenniferleechan) March 27, 2018
-Partially because Richard Sherman will not be ready to go yet
-Partially because of what they saw from Adrian Colbert at safety
The 49ers could gain some needed secondary flexibility by moving Ward to cornerback. If Ward moves back to cornerback, they have Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert slotted in at the two safety positions. Ward would compete with Ahkello Witherspoon and Richard Sherman for outside cornerback work, and potentially K’Waun Williams for work in the slot once training camp arrives.
One thing that some folks have mentioned is how this might help him from an injury standpoint. Ward has played nickel back, outside cornerback, and free safety in his four-year 49ers career. During that time, he has suffered a season-ending injury (or season-ending aggravation as in his first year) at all three positions. That being said, conceivably there would be less big impact hits as a cornerback compared to free safety. I don’t know if it will matter given his injuries across the board, but it’s one thing to consider.
What this should not really do is change the 49ers draft board with regard to cornerback and safety. Ward is a talented defensive back, but he is also entering the final year of his contract. Even if he sticks around and the two sides work out a contract extension, Richard Sherman is not a long-term option, and they would still want more depth at safety.
OTAs likely won’t tell us a whole lot about the state of the cornerback and safety depth charts. Once Sherman returns from his torn Achilles, we’ll start to get a better idea of exactly how this depth chart will shake iout.