Jets Veteran Hints 49ers Free Agent Should Come to NY

Jimmie Ward

Getty San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward during the 2022-23 NFC Championship.

New York Jets cornerback D.J. Reed Jr. is at it again. A couple of days after he tweeted at Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, the NYJ veteran hinted publicly that San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward should come to New York in 2023.

It all started when Sterling Bennett — the host of the “49ers Access Podcast” — shared an Instagram live clip that featured Ward revealing a conversation between him and Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, where the former San Fran captain requested not to play the nickel CB role anymore. “Do you wanna ride the bench?” Shanahan supposedly responded — which let Ward know his starting spot at safety “was gone.”

Reed then quote tweeted that video, voicing: “Don’t worry about that bro, I know somewhere that’ll show you love.” The shout-out was picked up quickly by Jets Twitter, as always, with over 4,000 likes and nearly 400 retweets.

Fellow 49ers teammate and current Jets UFA linebacker Kwon Alexander also commented, “Owee 😂,” under Reed’s reply.

49ers’ Jimmie Ward Has Ties to Robert Saleh, Could Replace Lamarcus Joyner at FS

This is an easy match in free agency if both Ward and head coach Robert Saleh want it to be. The UFA free safety thrived in Saleh’s system for years and the Jets HC — as well as defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich — often compared Lamarcus Joyner to him when he was first picked up by Gang Green.

It was the versatility that made Joyner and Ward similar. That ability to play deep safety, zone read, or come down to the line of scrimmage and man-up on a tight end or slot receiver.

Ulbrich once said: “Lamarcus is unique in the fact that he can go down and he can play on receivers in a man-to-man capacity. That’s hard to do for a safety body. I think the experience of playing nickel in Vegas with the Raiders, I think that’s going to be huge for us because if you go back and you watch the San Francisco 49ers defenses, what really unlocked their defense was their ability to cover receivers with Jimmie Ward. So, I would definitely see Lamarcus more in that capacity.”

After a quote like that, who better to replace Joyner with than Ward himself? The only fatal flaw in this plan is the fact that Ward doesn’t seem to want to play nickel anymore but not to worry — Saleh and Ulbrich ended up transforming Michael Carter II into their primary nickelback after this early press conference on the job.

While starting with the Jets in 2022, Joyner rarely played that role, and Ward likely wouldn’t need to either — although the versatility still helps as a perfect scheme fit.

What Might Jimmie Ward Cost the Jets?

It’s hard to say what Ward might be valued at around the league in free agency. The 31-year-old former first-round pick went from a full-time starter to a nickel specialist and key rotational DB in 2022 after the emergence of 2021 draft pick Talanoa Hufanga and veteran signing Tashaun Gipson Sr. at safety inside Demeco Ryans’ version of Saleh’s system.

Ward had been making $9.5 million per year with the 49ers despite the shift in responsibility, but isn’t expected to make anywhere close to that on his next deal. Over the Cap’s current valuation is a shade over $2 million per year, which would probably sync up with Joyner’s $2.51 million cap hit last season.

There is one other wrinkle that could lower Ward’s price tag a bit. San Francisco still owes the long-time defender a prorated bonus over three void years from 2023 through 2025 — which comes out to $6.395 million — so it’s very possible the veteran might take a team-friendly pay cut to play for a coach he has history with in 2023.

During his last year under Saleh in 2020, Ward had 73 total tackles (second most of his career), four passes defended, two forced fumbles, and one QB hit in 14 appearances (all starts). He’d be a solid veteran addition with built-in familiarity for the Jets, who might end up being more affordable than he seems.