San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan addressed many topics while at the NFL annual meeting, one of them was announcing that Jimmie Ward would be taking reps at the cornerback spot during OTAs. There are a few reasons why he will be making the move back to where he played most of his college career. One is the health of Richard Sherman who will not be ready for OTAs, and the other being the successful emergence of Adrian Colbert last season at the safety position.
The 49ers picked up Ward’s fifth year option which gives him a sizable pay increase in 2018. His salary jumps to $8.5 million in this final year of his rookie contract. Shanahan stated that he was excited about it even though they are not sure where he will play. While Ward will be at corner during OTAs, the staff will reevaluate the situation for training camp.
This is not the first time a coaching staff has been complimentary of Ward’s physical abilities and talent. Unfortunately, the only year where Ward played an entire season was in 2015 when he appeared in all 16 games and started in eight of them. While breaking his forearm in 2017 has to be considered a freak accident, questions outside of 49ers headquarters remain about his durability.
What is striking about Shanahan’s comments are how genuinely excited he is about Ward and how he says Ward could start at any of five positions on the defense as well as be the second best at five positions. As Shanahan adds that the team “couldn’t solve all of our issues at depth at each position” but Ward gives them the next best option in a lot of situations.
What happens in 2019 for Ward remains to be seen, and his play is likely to influence that a great deal. For now the staff is extremely happy to keep him around and will use him in whatever possible way they need.