No. 2: Defensive Back Jimmie Ward
49ers fans were likely a little upset when the team elected to re-sign oft-injured veteran defensive back Jimmie Ward to a one-year deal last offseason. And those fans were probably even more agitated when he suffered a broken collarbone in training camp, only reinforcing his injury reputation.
But Ward has since put in the best pro season of his career, solidifying the free safety spot and capping off arguably the most crucial spot in coordinator Robert Saleh’s defense. Plus, his prior experience rotating all throughout the secondary has made him quite the useful tool, sometimes acting as a nickel back when called upon.
And he’s done so remarkably well.
The Niners seem awfully high on Ward, who’ll turn 29 years old this summer. As long as he stays healthy, there’s little doubting he’d be a good investment.
Should San Francisco elect to move on, though, replacing him won’t necessarily be easy. There are options, yes. One of them is determining whether or not second-year pro Tarvarius Moore is ready to assume starting duties at safety. Or, perhaps, strong safety Jaquiski Tartt can rotate to the free safety spot, allowing second-year pro Marcell Harris to assume Tartt’s stead.
Ward’s injury history could lower the price. But coming off such a stellar season, he’ll likely want to cash in on a big deal while he’s right in the middle of his prime.