49ers to give Jimmie Ward long look at CB, provide update on Reuben Foster


49ers to give Jimmie Ward long look at CB, provide update on Reuben Foster

ORLANDO, Fla. – The 49ers have their projected two starting cornerbacks in place.

After that, there are a lot of uncertainties and moving parts.

But one thing has been determined, 49ers general manager John Lynch said on Monday at the NFL owners meetings. Versatile defensive back Jimmie Ward will get a long look at cornerback during the offseason before determining at which position he can help the most.

“Jimmie Ward is a guy who’s played some outside corner in his career,” Lynch said. “We’re going to experiment with that this offseason and see if that’s viable and give him some time there.”

Ward has played a 16-game season just once in his career. In 2015, he started eight of the 16 games in which he appeared as the 49ers’ nickel back. The next season, he was moved to cornerback, where he spent 10 games before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury. Last year, Ward was the 49ers’ starting free safety before his season came to an end after seven games due to a fractured forearm.

Ward is playing this season on the fifth-year option of $8.526 million. It’s a hefty salary, but the 49ers believe Ward’s versatility makes him a valuable commodity. He was seen as a good fit for the 49ers’ system as a free safety. But the 49ers feel as if they have some flexibility with starting-caliber safeties Jaquiski Tartt and Adrian Colbert already on the roster.

Therefore, the 49ers want to get a good read on Ward’s skills at cornerback, where Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon are expected to be the starters.

The 49ers are looking to add a veteran player to compete for a backup cornerback spot.

In addition, Greg Mabin is a returning player who figures to be a serious contender for a roster spot. Two days after the Buffalo Bills waived Mabin in October, the 49ers signed him to their practice squad. After his promotion to the 53-man roster in November, Mabin appeared in six games with the 49ers.

“He’s got to continue to develop,” Lynch said. “Unfortunately for him, right when he started to get on the field (last season), he was injured with a calf strain. We feel guys like that are going to have to emerge and step up.”

The 49ers’ offseason program is set to begin April 16. Linebacker Reuben Foster’s status remains unsettled, as the 49ers await a decision from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office.

Foster was arrested last month in Los Gatos for alleged domestic violence, threats and possession of an assault weapon. The district attorney’s office has yet to determine whether there is enough evidence to pursue criminal charges.

“We’re operating on their time line,” Lynch said. “There are dates, but we’re operating on that time line and monitoring it. We’ve been in close contact with him. He’s doing a nice job.”

Regardless of the Santa Clara County DA's decision, the NFL could levy discipline against Foster for possible violations of the league's policies on personal conduct and substances of abuse. Foster was arrested in Alabama this offseason for possession of marijuana.

Before Richard Sherman can be a good off-field influence on the young players on the 49ers’ defense, he must be a good player. And that’s exactly what the 49ers expect from him.

“We still think, when healthy, he’s one of the better corners in this league,” Lyunch said. “That’s what we feel. So now the challenge is getting healthy.”

Sherman is making good progress from surgeries on both feet – one to repair his torn Achilles tendon, the other to remove bone spurs. He said he expects to be cleared for football activity in May or June.

Sherman last week described his contributions to the 49ers as 50-50 – on and off the field. Lynch said Sherman brings a much-needed attitude to the 49ers’ defense.

“One of his greatest qualities is the competitor that he is,” Lynch said. “We believe that’s contagious. We believe our defense needs that. We have a lot of young players that kind of still finding their way. You need somebody with, whatever you call it, that dog. He is a determined, competitive type of guy. And those guys can influence your defense in a great way.”

There are any number of positions the 49ers can go with the No. 9 overall pick. The options are limitless with the first-round draft pick, as the team could consider help at defensive back, edge rusher, inside linebacker, offensive line or wide receiver.

The 49ers are not in the quarterback market, so the presence of a handful of legitimate first-round options, such as Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield could prove to be a benefit for the organization.

“It’s really intriguing with these quarterbacks, and everyone has a different favorite quarterback, to see just what’s going to happen,” Lynch said. “There are going to be so many different possibilities. Fortunately for us, there are a lot of good football players. That process has begun, but it will really develop in earnest here in the next month, which is a sprint.

“We’ll get a better feel for these guys. But there are a lot of options at our disposal. That’s the good thing. But we’re going to have to be well-versed because this thing can go so many different directions.”

A year ago, the 49ers were in the market for a quarterback – even after the signing of veteran Brian Hoyer. Or, at least, that’s the point Lynch wanted to get across to the rest of the NFL.

Lynch was seen across the country at the pro days of Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer. He also led Deshaun Watson through a “semi-private” workout.

As it turned out, the 49ers had no intention of using the No. 2 overall pick on a quarterback. But they were able to trade back one spot with the Chicago Bears, who jumped up to select Trubisky at a hefty price.

“It was a show, but we were also looking for that guy,” Lynch said. “We were looking for someone to say, ‘Hey, I’m the guy you want.’ It was a little bit of both.”

This year, Lynch will not be attending nearly as many pro days. On Thursday, he attended the pro day at his alma mater, Stanford. While the 49ers will have representatives at nearly every pro day, Lynch figures to spend most of his time watching film in Santa Clara.

“It feels like it’s time to hunker down in the office,” he said.

Josh Rosen calls uncertain Cardinals future before NFL draft 'annoying'

Josh Rosen calls uncertain Cardinals future before NFL draft 'annoying'

One year ago, Josh Rosen had to think he was the Arizona Cardinals' future. General manager Steve Keim traded up to draft the quarterback with the No. 10 overall pick, but a lot can change in one year. 

Now, with the 2019 NFL Draft one week away, Rosen's future is up in the air.

“I definitely understand the situation,” Rosen said in a talk with SI TV. “I mean, it’s annoying but, like, it is what it is. Football’s a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions."

Despite having Rosen on the team, the Cardinals and new coach Kliff Kingsbury are expected to take quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Plenty can change, however, and on Tuesday, Kingsbury said Rosen has been "phenomenal" this offseason.

The 22-year-old QB already has dealt with change and uncertainty plenty of times in his young football career. Since his freshman season at UCLA through his NFL rookie season, Rosen has played under five offensive coordinators in four years.

Rosen went 3-10 as the Cardinals' starter last season (two of those wins were over the 49ers), and he threw for 2,278 yards and 11 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. While those aren't great numbers, QBs who are first-round picks typically receive many more chances to prove themselves. Rosen, however, might not have that chance in Arizona, but he said he's not sweating it.

"I think the best advice I've ever gotten in life, from so many different people, is control what you can control," Rosen said. "And whatever decisions are made, it's my duty to prove them right if they keep me and prove them wrong if they ship me off."

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If the Cardinals do ship off Rosen and draft Murray, they'd become perhaps the biggest storyline to watch in football. They'd also allow the 49ers to draft Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick, setting a rookie pass rusher versus a rookie quarterback in the NFC West for years to come.

Joe Staley offered scouting report on Dee Ford before 49ers made trade

Joe Staley offered scouting report on Dee Ford before 49ers made trade

When the 49ers were shopping for an edge rusher during free agency, they sought the advice of veteran offensive lineman Joe Staley, who offered valuable information regarding Dee Ford

Staley faced off against Ford in Week 3 of the 2018 season when the 49ers traveled to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. He had first-hand knowledge of Ford's much-noted first step off the line.

“That’s what I love about this franchise,” Staley said. “The guys that we have here really reach out to the players about guys that are going against them, guys who have gone against certain players and ask for feedback. 

“I don’t know how much stock they take into to that but just the fact that they reach out to the players and ask their opinions on all that stuff.”  

When Staley was asked if Ford was truly explosive, he gave a very succinct reply. 

“That’s a correct statement,” Staley said. “He’s one of the most explosive players I’ve played against. He was definitely a challenge to go against last year and every time I’ve ever played him.”

Shortly after Ford was signed by the 49ers, he gave a similarly complementary statement about Staley and his physical ability. 

“He’s athletic and he’s strong and he has functional strength,” Ford said. “Functional strength is so important. Every offensive line is strong. They’re huge, they’re big, they’re strong. That’s a given. But he has functional strength, which is rare. He’s a pure athlete with a savvy skillset. So you’re not going to beat him a lot.”

Staley recalled one instance where he thought the Ford had taken advantage of a no-call by the referees. 

“It was a challenging game,” Staley said. "He got me early on with that sack, the first step, that quickness. I was like 100-percent certain that he was offsides, he was that fast. But going back in the film he just timed it up super right on it.

“It’s that first step, get-off. You see guys like Von (Miller) have it. Even bigger guys like DeMarcus Lawrence has that explosive first step. He’s a bigger pass rusher. That really sets up everything they can do and gets the tackles and the offensive linemen playing on their heels and reacting a little bit more than they want to.”  

It was a memorable game for Ford as well, which included banter between the two of them. 

“We talked during the whole game,” Ford said. “It was fun. It was fun. It was trash talk, but we were enjoying it. I really admire his game. And that was huge for me, because he admired my game. He’s a vet. He’s a future Hall of Famer, and it’s huge to hear that from a guy like that.”

Staley remarked that he can’t wait to pick Ford’s brain and go against him in practice every day. He thinks it will make each of them better players. 

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Staley is very pleased his scouting report on Ford was influential in bringing the star edge rusher to California. So much so that he may have a future in scouting.

Well, at least according to Staley himself.