Robert Saleh could use another defender who knows his scheme
You know it, I know it, we all know it: the New York Jets need a new safety this offseason.
One name has already been linked to them just based on scheme, a 49ers player who was a key part of Robert Saleh‘s defense in San Francisco.
Now, safety/nickel corner Jimmie Ward took to Instagram to share his certainty that his head coach does not want him back in free agency. D.J. Reed is already on the recruitment trail.
Don’t worry about that bro, I know somewhere that’ll show you love. https://t.co/cNOkIy5MAf
— DJ_2Great (@D7_Reed) February 2, 2023
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Ward said that after the 49ers’ Week 7 blowout loss to the Chiefs, 44-23, he went to Kyle Shanahan and said that he did not want to play the nickel anymore. After all, Ward is a safety who can play nickel on occasion, not a full-time cornerback.
Shanahan’s response startled him: “You want to ride the bench?”
According to Ward, “That let me know right there my spot was gone.”
Indeed, according to Pro Football Focus, Ward played 440 snaps as a slot corner in 2022, compared to 58 as a box safety and just two as a deep safety. That contrasts sharply with his 2021 splits when he took 203 snaps at slot corner, 229 in the box, and 544 as a deep safety.
Ward profiles as a Swiss Army knife more than a slot corner. He gave up four touchdowns in the slot on an 81% completion rate and just never found his groove. San Francisco may have needed him to play there due to an abundance of injuries at the corner position, but Ward was very unhappy with a role that limited his versatility.
The Jets, on the other hand, would be thrilled with such a skillset. They are looking for a safety who can play primarily deep but also come down in the box. The nickel corner part is an added bonus, as Michael Carter II has that position capably locked down as a starter. Pairing Ward with Tony Adams, another versatile defensive back, might just give the Jets what they’ve been seeking in the safety position.
Spotrac projects Ward’s next contract at two years and $15.2 million. The Jets can easily cut Jordan Whitehead and pay Ward with the savings.
The question is if Ward will decline rapidly as safeties tend to do around their age-32 season. If Saleh believes Ward still has gas left in the tank, this signing could be a no-brainer.
Reed certainly thinks it should be.
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