Free Safety: Jimmie Ward
Strong Safety: Eric Reid
San Francisco granted veteran safety Antoine Bethea his release, and he went onto sign a free-agent deal with the Arizona Cardinals.
This opens up a vacancy in the secondary, and it’s likely we’ll see defensive back Jimmie Ward move back from a nickel corner to his natural free safety position.
At least according to general manager John Lynch (h/t Eric Branch of SFGate.com):
"Just being completely honest, we think [Ward] is a good scheme fit for what we’re doing at the free-safety position. But we don’t know that until you put him there. It’s projecting. We think his traits, his skills, translate very well to that, but it’s such an instinct position."
This should work, as Ward is more than equipped to be a center-fielder within San Francisco’s defense.
But one should also expect a position battle at the strong safety position between veteran Eric Reid and Jaquiski Tartt.
Tartt, who regressed a bit in 2017, is still likely a fit in the Niners’ future plans. Meanwhile, Reid is entering a contract year. A guess has Reid winning this battle. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see the 49ers let Reid walk in 2018 and picking up a compensatory pick — if it happens — as a result.