Why 49ers should sign Tre Boston in the wake of Jimmie Ward injury

The San Francisco 49ers lost safety Jimmie Ward to a broken collarbone in OTAs, which should be enough to sign free-agent defensive back Tre Boston immediately.

For some time now, Niner Noise has been touting the idea the San Francisco 49ers should go after veteran free-agent safety Tre Boston, who spent last season with the Niners’ NFC West rivals, the Arizona Cardinals.

Instead, San Francisco elected to roll largely with what it had at the position, defensive backs Jimmie Ward and Adrian Colbert.

But Ward suffered a broken collarbone during the first week of organized team activities (OTAs), and he’ll be out for eight to 12 weeks. And while he should be able to return by the regular season, Ward’s notable injury history should create enough concern for the 49ers to at least explore adding some depth and competition.

While Boston somehow managed to slip through the major phases of NFL free agency, there’s a lot to like about the production level the 26 year old has offered in recent seasons:

Tre Boston Defense & Fumbles Table
3 yr3 yrCAR42163113184102.0104752997
1 yr1 yrARI1413390991179661313
1 yr1 yrLAC1615549025879562310
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/25/2019.


Boston recorded three interceptions with the Cardinals last year, which is one more than the entire 49ers defense registered in 2018. Yet Boston’s efforts in 2017 with the Los Angeles Chargers should draw interest.

The Chargers run nearly an identical Cover 3, single-high safety defense as the Niners. That year, Boston’s five interceptions and eight pass breakups showcased his ability to hold down a free safety spot atop a defense.

Granted, there are some concerns why Boston has bounced around the league a bit after the Carolina Panthers selected him in Round 4 of the 2014 NFL Draft. Perhaps some have worried about his dedication or locker room fit.

Yet there’s this:

Granted, those are just words. But the Niners aren’t exactly in a position to be picky or choosy. Not at free safety, at least.

Colbert, despite a promising rookie season, went through a massive second-year regression and might not be the long-term answer. Even if he is, Colbert needs some hefty competition in training camp — something Ward’s injury may not allow.

San Francisco could also consider moving their 2018 third-round pick, cornerback Tarvarius Moore, back to his natural position at safety. The problem with that, though, is the frequent moving back and forth of a player during his initial stages of development can be detrimental. Ward went through that early on in his NFL career, and it likely hindered his development.

The 49ers don’t need to make a massive investment on Boston, either. A one-year “prove it” deal should suffice, giving Boston a chance to make the roster and play in a system with which he’s already familiar.

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By doing so, the Niners would have a contingency plan in place and would at least stockpile some notable competition for this crucial spot in the defense.

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