San Francisco 49ers: 2020 offseason needs primer

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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Jimmie Ward, 49ers
Jimmie Ward #20 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

No. 2: Safety

One could make the argument the 49ers’ top need in the offseason is at safety, given the importance of this spot in coordinator Robert Saleh’s defense, particularly at free safety.

Defensive back Jimmie Ward had his best season as a pro last year, which coincidentally ties into him being potentially a much sought-after free agent on the open market. Re-signing Ward could be one of the biggest things on San Francisco’s to-do list this offseason.

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Ward was Pro Football Focus‘ sixth-highest-graded safety in 2019. And despite his long history of injuries, the team finally enjoyed the kind of play warranted from a former first-round draft pick.

The Niners do have some options, however, should Ward price himself out of San Francisco’s comfort range.

The first would be making some shifts on the roster, potentially moving Jaquiski Tartt from strong safety to free safety. Tartt has played at the very top of the defense before, which would allow two-year pro Marcell Harris to fill the strong safety spot. Or the 49ers could hope for that next-level leap from two-year pro Tarvarius Moore, which seemed to be the hope at the end of the preseason and early in 2019, although Moore struggled with angles and coverage, leading to Ward re-assuming the position.

Free agency likely isn’t an option, although it wouldn’t be a shocker to see John Lynch go with a safety with the team’s first pick.

This NFL Draft class isn’t particularly deep at the position, though, meaning re-signing Ward could be something the Niners prefer to try first, then worrying about possible long-term replacement options.