Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis is officially empty until the NFL preseason, now that the NFL Combine is over and the San Francisco 49ers have a general idea of who to grab next month to bolster the secondary.
Or will they opt for the next big NFL March event…free agency on Wednesday, March 16 to upgrade that unit?
There’s two names mentioned as possibilities, with one NFL insider on Sunday, March 6, reporting that the 49ers will be among the teams expressing interest in one cornerback ready to test the free agent market. His safety teammate is also expected to dip his feet into the free agent waters — and the 49ers have been mentioned before as a past potential destination.
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Super Bowl Winners Linked as Possible 49er Additions
Charvarius Ward and Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs are the Super Bowl winning duo from the Chiefs’ 2019 team who figure to be hot commodities in the open market in less than 10 days.
In the case of the cornerback Ward, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the 49ers are expected to reach out to the 25-year-old:
“He has emerged as a key player in the cornerback market and should be paid quite well. Expect the Chargers and San Francisco 49ers to be interested, among others. He might not be paid as much as, say, a J.C. Jackson or Carlton Davis. But don’t be surprised if he’s awfully close.”
Ward is still youthful having completed his fourth NFL season. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder tied a career-best mark in interceptions and pass deflections. Per Pro Football Focus, he surrendered 36 catches on 72 targets — meaning he allowed an average of just two catches his side per game.
Should he come on board to the 49ers, he could give defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans the long, physical cornerback the team was missing this past season.
Meanwhile, Mathieu is anticipated to test out the free agent market, reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network during the combine.
Rapoport mentioned that the Chiefs do have a chance to re-add the three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl 54 champion. However, Jake Rill of Bleacher Report wrote on Monday, March 7 that the Chiefs are facing a difficult time with trying to keep their free agents including both defenders:
“It may be tough for the Chiefs to bring back all their free agents, and if they re-sign Mathieu, it would make it more difficult to also keep Ward in the fold.”
How Much Would Both be Worth?
Ward and Mathieu are looking like they won’t come cheap should they gravitate toward the 49ers, or any NFL team.
Rill projects that Mathieu is due for a three-year, $47.5 million deal at his next stop. Spotrac has Mathieu’s base salary set for $14.8 million. The 49ers would have to clear some serious room — which of course would involve what they can free up through a Jimmy Garoppolo trade if it were to happen on the 16th — for the franchise to try and nab Mathieu. It could also mean the end for Jaquiski Tartt who’s a free agent. But a Jimmie Ward and Mathieu pairing gives the 49ers this three-for-one special: A stellar coverage safety in Ward, a ball-hawk in Mathieu and two stout safeties in coverage for Ryans to utilize.
Charvarius Ward could get more years with his next deal. Rill’s projection is four years for $42 million. He expects Ward to sign a deal that will be more than his $9.9 million base salary.
The 49ers are in a tough yet unique spot: Either put the chips on the table and go after one or both free agents, or just settle for the draft and pluck away from a solid 2022 cornerback and safety class to bolster the roster. It’s enticing to add one or both past champs. But it could come at a steep price. Regardless, this is a CB and safety unit that could use some newcomers. Fans know this: The new guys will either be through the draft or free agency…possibly via K.C.