The San Francisco 49ers could be looking to make some changes at safety, but they might not be ready to give up on Jimmie Ward — if the price is right. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were both complimentary of him in chatting with Bay Area reporters, but Matt Maiocco is reporting the team would want him back on a one-year deal.
Earlier this week, Shanahan and Lynch both talked about the injury history and are inclined to see what the market holds for him.
“We’ll see what the (free-agent) market holds for him,” Shanahan said. “We’ll probably get an idea for that (at the combine). I love Jimmie Ward. I really hope to have him back. We all know he’s struggled a little bit to stay healthy. But he’s a guy, as a person, that I’ll go to war with any day. I really trust him. Really believe in him. And I love him as a player, too.”
Ward played a full 16-game season in 2015, his second season in the NFL. He has had all four of his other seasons cut short by a variety of injuries, including his foot, shoulder, and forearm. Even though some of those seem like freak injuries, they keep happening. It’s unfair, but he’s been injury-riddled throughout his career.
The 49ers might have interest in Earl Thomas or any of the safety prospects in the coming draft, and re-signing Jimmie Ward would not necessarily make a big difference. Even if they signed Thomas, or even if they invested a first or second round pick in the safety position, Ward is arguably the team’s most versatile defender. He can play safety, outsider corner, and nickel corner.
He might find a better deal somewhere else, but if not, returning him on a one-year “prove it” kind of deal is not the worst idea in the world for roster depth. Considering the injuries at safety and questions at cornerback this past season, like John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have said, you can’t have too many defensive backs.