Pro Football Focus listed the biggest free agency moves made using their stat WAR (wins above replacement) excluding quarterbacks, and former 49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward was sixth on the list.
To make up for the loss of the longest tenured Niner, San Francisco signed Myles Hartsfield and Isaiah Oliver during free agency. The team also has Samuel Womack waiting in the wings as he looks to make an impact during his second season as a pro.
That may seem rich for Ward, but he was excellent playing nickel during the second half of the season. There are ways to be productive playing defensive back besides relying on interceptions, but Jimmie had more interceptions from Week 11 on than he did for his entire career.
Sound tackling, always in position to make a play, and a fiery leader made Ward an exceptional nickel defender. Whether it’s Hartsfield, Oliver, Womack, or a rookie, they’ll have big shoes to fill.
Only the Kansas City Chiefs are ranked higher than the 49ers heading into the NFL Draft, which puts everything we’ve heard from John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan from this past week into perspective.
Here we are going back and forth trying to figure out which quarterback will be under center for which games. But, ultimately, it’s unlikely to matter given how strong the roster is and how San Francisco stacks up against the rest of the NFL:
• Biggest loss: QB Jimmy Garoppolo
• Biggest gain: QB Sam Darnold
The biggest question for the 49ers is who will be their starting quarterback? The team lost a number of players on defense, including CB Emmanuel Moseley and DI Hassan Ridgeway, but the signing of star DI Javon Hargrave will help reduce the impact.
Hargrave has earned back-to-back 90.0-plus pass-rush grades and put up the first double-digit sack season of his career in 2022, so it’s not surprising the 30-year-old cashed in at such a high level.
Moseley and Ridgeway weren’t a part of the defense during the second half of the season. And neither was Jimmy, for that matter. Given the state of the 49ers roster and factoring in how much he received on the open market, the biggest loss has to be Mike McGlinchey.
If Darnold can bring the best out of Trey Lance, or winds up being the starter for the first month, then we can concede he’s the biggest signing. But that undermines the type of impact Hargrave will have playing next to Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa.