All systems are go for Jimmie Ward’s conversion to free safety this season, and beyond.
The 49ers announced Monday they’ve exercised Ward’s option for 2018, a move that became even more predictable when they did not use any of their 10 draft picks on a safety.
“I was real excited with what we saw from him in camp,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Sunday. “It was the first time I’d seen him at the safety position and thought he did a very good job.”
Ward, a 2014 first-round draft pick, moved last year from nickel back to starting right corner back, defending a career-high 12 passes with just one interception in 10 starts. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in December, adding to durability concerns. He missed three games with a quadriceps injury in October, and his rookie season ended halfway through when he re-fractured his foot.
“We’re very excited about him and the possibilities of him being a very good safety,” Shanahan added.
Ward is slotted to make $8.5 million in 2018. He will make $690,000 this season in base salary as part of his rookie contract worth $7.1 million.
If Ward struggles in the move, it’s unclear what the 49ers backup options are. Eric Reid and Jaquiski Tartt are former free safeties being moved closer to the line of scrimmage in the new scheme. Vinnie Sunseri and Don Jones saw time at free safety in minicamp.