Ex-49ers Defender Recruits Jimmie Ward to Join Rising AFC Squad

Jimmie Ward

Getty Jimmie Ward on January 8, 2023 in Santa Clara.

A past San Francisco 49ers defender appears to be making his attempt to add some more ‘Niners representation for his team. His recruiting target in the Bay Area? Unrestricted free agent Jimmie Ward.

D.J. Reed, who spent his first two seasons with the 49ers before signing a blockbuster three-year, $33 million deal to join ex-49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh with the New York Jets in 2022, chimed in on a viral clip of Ward detailing some conversations he had with 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, which point to Ward officially being on his way out. One of the quotes Shanahan gave Ward when the defender asked to drift away from the nickel cornerback spot he played: “Do you wanna ride the bench?”

Once the cornerback Reed saw the post, he immediately swooped in to make his pitch to his former 49ers teammate.

“Don’t worry about that bro, I know somewhere that’ll show you love,” Reed responded, clearly implying he wants Ward with “Gang Green.”

Fans of the Jets then began to make their own sales pitches to bring in the 49ers captain, who played in back-to-back NFC title games and won the 2019 season NFC championship. Reed’s response to Ward’s clip even prompted another 49ers defender to sound off: Jets linebacker Kwon Alexander.

DJ Reed With the 49ers

To reiterate, Reed lasted just two seasons with the 49ers after falling to them in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft out of Kansas State.

His rookie season witnessed the most production — collecting 41 tackles, 30 solo stops and a still career-best three tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Reed also started in two games that year.

Like Ward, he too was on that ’19 team that went on to face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl 54. That was also the year he scored his first career touchdown on this wild fumble against the Arizona Cardinals:

Reed, however, was eventually waived by the 49ers with a non-football injury designation and then acquired by the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks. Seattle was where he snatched his first career interception and went on to pick off four in his two seasons in the Pacific Northwest.

Now in his first year of reuniting with Saleh, Reed went on to start in every NFL regular season game for the first time in his career. He posted new career-bests in pass deflections (12), total tackles (80) and solo stops (63).

How Jimmie Ward Could Fit if He Headed to New York

For starters, Ward would not only have a reunion with Reed in the secondary and Saleh leading the coaching charge, but other past 49ers include defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich and left guard Laken Tomlinson. Alexander, meanwhile, is an unrestricted free agent.

Ward’s versatility Saleh is already familiar with — with Ward having covered tight ends, slot wideouts, being one of the deep safeties and lining up close to the line of scrimmage. And in a division that has Pro Bowlers Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and past 100-catch WR Jaylen Waddle, the Jets could use Ward’s leadership and coverage ability in the AFC East.

As it is, Ward delivered his best pass deflection mark of eight with Saleh as his defensive coordinator in 2019. His tackle production additionally increased with Saleh.

Furthermore, Reed is anticipated to lose one safety teammate this offseason in LaMarcus Joyner, who has a $2.5 million cap hit and is his own unrestricted free agent for the 2023 cycle. Ward may have been making $9.5 million with the 49ers, but with him set to be 32 for the 2023 season, he’s not expected to make anywhere close to that mark for this offseason.

The Jets have become a possibility — and one former 49er has already made the first attempt to get the Jets’ attention regarding Ward.

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