Early last season, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was clear about where he and his staff wanted to play Jimmie Ward.
Ward had bounced between cornerback and safety, but the new regime liked him at free safety.
“We truly believe Jimmie is made to be a free safety,” he said.
Now that the 49ers are in planning mode for 2018, however, it appears Ward will get another shot at corner.
“Jimmie Ward has played some outside corner in his career,” general manager John Lynch said this past weekend at the NFL owners’ meetings. “We’re going to experiment with that this offseason and see if that’s viable.”
Part of the reason, of course, is the emergence of second-year man Adrian Colbert at safety. In Ward’s absence last season because of injury, Colbert got more playing time and showed he could have a strong future. Ward and Jaquiski Tartt could be the 2018 starters together, if Ward moves to corner.
Cornerback also could be crowded, with Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, K’Waun Williams and Ward. The 49ers also could bring in another cornerback or safety (or both) in the draft, as well.
It’s possible, too, that Ward might become a super utility defensive back.
“We think Jimmie Ward is a really good football player,” Lynch said recently, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “We think his versatility is what allows us to be comfortable with that (salary). Jimmie’s a guy who can play safety. We saw that. He can play outside corner. He can also play nickel. I think because of that, he becomes very valuable.”
Earlier this offseason, the 49ers picked up Ward’s fifth-year option. He’s due to receive $8,526,000 this season – no matter where he plays.