49ers $13.5 Million Defender Called ‘Most Underappreciated’ on Team


Getty The 49ers before taking the field against the Vikings on November 28, 2021.

He’s yet to cover his first wide receiving assignment in a game or take the field with the San Francisco 49ers, but Charvarius Ward has been the most buzzworthy free agent addition by the team in 2022.

Many pundits have praised the pickup of the former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback, who has received high grades by analytical websites for his coverage ability. One wide receiver who has crossed paths with Ward has said “I’m excited about him” during the 2022 OTAs (Organized Team Activities) in Santa Clara. Ward comes to the Bay Area armed with a new annual salary of $13.5 million per year.

Yet, Ward isn’t considered a household name in the NFL despite winning one Super Bowl (which was against the 49ers in the 2019 season) plus taking on his share of the league’s best wide receivers — establishing himself as one of the league’s best press man cornerbacks per Pro Football Focus and producing four interceptions and 29 pass deflections, including two seasons that saw 10 pass breakups according to Pro Football Reference.

And with that, Ward landed on a significant list on Wednesday, May 26 by NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund: The NFL’s “Most Underappreciated Players.”

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How Ward is ‘Underappreciated’

Frelund selected Ward for two reasons: His astonishing percentage in one defensive category and his ability to avoid the yellow flag being pulled out by an official.

“The Niners’ free agent pickup boasts an NFL-best 46.9 completion percentage allowed in coverage since 2019, per NGS (min. 150 targets by Next Gen Stats). He also had just one penalty called against him last season with Kansas City,” Frelund wrote.

The addition of Ward becomes a breath of fresh air for a 49ers secondary that needs improvement in completion percentage allowed and in the penalty category.

“Not surprising then that San Francisco, who ranked 29th in completion percentage allowed (68.2) and whose DBs were the most penalized in the league last season, pursued the 26-year-old this offseason,” Frelund stated.

Ward Comparable to Pro Bowl CB, Says PFF

Sam Monson of PFF is one who has taken a strong glance at Ward’s press coverage snaps. And he drew parallels with one Pro Bowler on the New Orleans Saints.

Here’s what Monson wrote on May 17:

“Charvarius Ward leads the NFL in press coverage snaps over the past two years — although Marshon Lattimore is a close second — and he now slots into the San Francisco 49ers’ defense after spending the past four seasons in Kansas City. Ward and Lattimore are the only cornerbacks with more than 500 snaps of press coverage in the two-year span, and both players are closer to 600 snaps than 500. The Saints have clearly relied on Lattimore’s ability to play one-on-one coverage for years and are happy to lean into that strategy, often singling him up and letting him get aggressive at the line. Ward has also done it a lot but now moves to a defense that employs a lot more off coverage, which will be an interesting thing to monitor.”

That’s not all. One fan of the 49ers @Coach_Yac on Twitter pointed out one more telling stat involving the 49ers’ newcomer:

Brandon Aiyuk Excited About the Challenge

Brandon Aiyuk has begun to face his share of Ward during OTAs. Aiyuk, though, has expressed his excitement in going toe-to-toe with him.

“I’m excited not only to go up against him but to have him on our defense and watch him go after receivers,” Aiyuk told the Bay Area media following the 49ers’ Tuesday open media practice. “I’ve already watched him go. I’ve watched a lot of his stuff already so far. I got to play [against] him a little bit last season when we played Kansas City in the preseason game, so I know him a little bit. But definitely excited to have him on our team. Definitely excited to get better going up against him and all our DBs. We have a great DB room.”

Even if that DB room features “the most underappreciated” representative on the 2022 49ers who’s expected to play a pivotal role on defense.

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