49ers defensive back Jimmie Ward is heading for free agency. And he may have to go elsewhere if he wants to return to his preferred position of free safety.
G.M. John Lynch recently explained that Ward wasn’t thrilled about moving from safety to slot corner in 2022. And Lynch knows Ward wants to go back to the last line of the San Francisco defense.
Lynch recently spoke about Ward’s initial reluctance to play slot corner.
“At first he thought we were crazy,” Lynch said, via Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area “He wanted out, but Kyle [Shanahan] did a good job. I know they had a meeting and convinced him to stick with it. He did, and sounds like he wants to go back to safety, but I think it adds to who he is as a player to show he has that type of versatility.”
Lynch believes that playing corner helped Ward get his hands on the ball more often, addressing a longstanding criticism of Ward’s overall game.
Ward, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2014, has said that he was told he’d be benched if he didn’t change positions.
“Kyle doesn’t remember it quite like that,” Lynch said. “We were never benching Jimmie. I think he more tried to sell him on why it was a good thing for him and our team.”
Both Ward and free safety Tashaun Gipson will become free agents in 11 days. If Ward wants to play safety again, he may need to go elsewhere — if Gipson re-signs with the 49ers.
And there’s an interesting wrinkle to the Ward/Gipson question. Per NFLPA records, they’re represented by the same agent. So Ward perhaps will know what Gipson plans to do, and Gipson will know what Ward plans to do.
Lynch says the team wants both Ward and Gipson back again. If that happens, one will be on the bench — or one will be playing slot corner.