Ward hints at 49ers departure, free agency after loss to Eagles


After nine seasons in the Bay, Jimmie Ward and the 49ers could be parting ways this offseason.

The 31-year-old, who was selected by San Francisco in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft and is the longest-tenured 49er, indicated that his time in the Bay likely is over after the 49ers’ heartbreaking season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

"I'm good at safety and I'm good at nickel,” Ward told reporters postgame (h/t The Athletic’s David Lombardi). “I'm a good football player, so it's going to help me in free agency."

While Ward said he’d be open to returning to the 49ers, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he explored his options elsewhere to resume his duties as a starting safety. Ward settled into his role as the 49ers’ nickel back after losing his starting job to veteran free safety Tashuan Gipson this season.

In his new role, though, he's proven to be valuable wherever he lines up. And after learning that Eagles' DeVonta Smith didn't catch the ball on a first-quarter play with Ward on the coverage, which eventually set up a six-yard Miles Sanders touchdown run, Ward was more confident with his performance in the loss.

“Was it incomplete?” Ward asked reporters. “It was? So you’re telling me they hit me with a [pass interference] that was a good play and they said he caught the ball? Oh, man. I had a good game then! Jimmie Ward, man. I play nickel good and I play safety man, you all already know what time it is, man.”

Ward's versatility separates him from others, but his NFL journey has been filled with ups and downs due to injury issues he endured early in his career and he will be a free agent this offseason.

"I feel like the 49ers are going to have a great team next year and years to come," Ward said. "They've got some great players in this building and a great coaching staff, great GM, great owner. They know what they're doing. So I'm pretty sure they're going to be in this position next year."

RELATED: Where do 49ers go from here? Decisions loom with scheduled UFAs

Despite Ward's undeniable talent and passion for the game, going different ways could be best for both parties. 

"Whatever happens, I love you, dog," linebacker Fred Warner told Ward in San Francisco's locker room after Sunday's game as the two hugged it out, possibly for the last time as 49ers.

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