There was always going to be risk involved with bringing back safety Jimmie Ward. The former 2014 first-round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers has ended up on the injured reserve four out of five seasons. On Thursday, Ward reportedly broke his collarbone. You can look at this from a couple of perspectives. On the one hand, the injury is out of the way now, and Ward should be ready by the time the preseason rolls around. On the other hand, if it happened now diving after a football, why won’t it happen again with his history?
You feel bad for Ward. You never want to see a player get injured. Here’s wishing Ward a speedy recovery and getting back on the field. At the moment, Adrian Colbert will get the bulk of the snaps at safety. You also have D.J. Reed Jr., Marcel Harris, and Antone Exum. The “Tarvarius Moore should play safety crowd” won’t get any quieter after the Ward news. I’m in front of that crowd, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Let’s go over some options that aren’t on the roster.
The majority of fans wanted the Niners to dive into either the free agency pool or the deep safety class for help. Even with Ward expected to miss roughly two months, the decision to roll the dice on Ward’s health doesn’t look great.
There are always options in the NFL. If the team is looking for help outside of the roster, they can look in a few directions. It turns out; they shouldn’t stand pat at safety. We’ve talked so much about Eric Berry and Tre Boston that I want to think outside of the box.
Lookin’ at Lambeau
Earlier this week, the Green Bay Packers 2017 second-round pick Josh Jones said he is skipping OTAs and wants to be traded to another team. Jones seems like the height-weight-speed type of player the 49ers would covet. At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Jones blew up the combine. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash, with a 37.5” vertical jump, and had an 11-foot broad jump. He was a top performer in each of those events, including the bench press.
While Jones has experience at both spots, he’s always been better closer to the line of scrimmage. The Packers seem to agree if you look at where Jones lined up last year. According to PFF, Jones played 501 snaps on defense. One hundred twenty-two of those plays he lined up at free safety. The most he played free safety in a single game was Week 12 against the Minnesota Vikings. Jones gave up three catches on as many targets for 38 yards. He also missed three tackles. Would the 49ers be willing to part with draft capital for a project?
Stay in the Bay
It seems like every Oakland Raiders player that was acquired before Jon Gruden arrived is on thin ice. The team declined the fifth-year option for safety Karl Joseph. The former first-round selection has had a rollercoaster of a career, and 2018 was no different. During the first half of the season, Joseph was either a healthy scratch or ineffective when he was on the field. During the second half of the year, he looked like the player Oakland hoped for when they took Joseph No. 14 overall in 2016. He recorded 42 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception in the last eight games of the year.
Karl Joseph improved all over the field in Year 3 pic.twitter.com/ScYjq8U0na— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 3, 2019
Knowing the Raiders don’t want Joseph long-term, parting with a Day 3 pick in the 2020 draft seems like a wise investment. A low-risk, high-reward move. Joseph has been healthy for the majority of his career. He played all over the place for the Raiders in 2018. Of his 509 snaps, 232 were in the box, 195 were at free safety, 55 were at slot corner, 25 on the defensive line, and two at the outside corner. Joseph is an athletic defensive back that would give the 49ers a mentality they lack at safety. Joseph has a reputation for a big-hitter since his days out of West Virginia.
He’d be my vote if the 49ers were to make a move. Youth. Athleticism. Health. Fit. Upside. Low-risk.