Jimmie Ward would prefer to remain with the 49ers, assuming they offer him the kind of contract he is looking for in free agency. But if that isn't in the cards, the free safety has thoughts on how San Francisco should go about replacing him.
There have been a number of safeties -- both free agents and draft prospects -- whose names have been associated with the 49ers. Ward has heard the rumors, but he doesn't view them as realistic, and recently took to Instagram to explain why.
"[Anthony] Harris is going to be more expensive than me in free agency FYI," Ward began. Considering Spotrac projects the Vikings' free agent to command an average annual salary of $13.8 million on his next contract, it's difficult to argue with that first point.
Next, Ward moved his attention to the draft prospects.
"If you draft a safety in the first round, the two names y'all keep throwing up every other day ... just know you can't use them how our DC used me this past season. ... Best bet is to draft a coverage safety in the later rounds to get a steal."
The two safety prospects being connected to San Francisco's first-round draft pick (No. 31 overall) are Alabama's Xavier McKinney and LSU's Grant Delpit. Both prospects are larger than Ward, which could be a benefit when playing closer to the line of scrimmage. 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh frequently used Ward as a single-high safety this past season, however, in which range and coverage skills are paramount for the last line of defense.
Clearly, Ward doesn't think McKinney and Delpit are capable of providing that skill set.
Finally, Ward closed with an endorsement of his understudy.
"Stick with [Tarvarius Moore] at safety if they don't sign me back!"
Moore transitioned back to his natural position of free safety last season after being tried at cornerback as a rookie and showed some promise, even intercepting a pass in the Super Bowl. Selected with the No. 95 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Moore has two more seasons remaining on his rookie contract at a very affordable price. In theory, San Francisco could elevate Moore to the starting job and save money at that position that the team could use elsewhere, such as in contract extensions for standouts George Kittle and DeForest Buckner.
You don't often see a pending free agent give his incumbent team advice on how to replace him. Given Ward's reputation in the 49ers' locker room, though, it's no surprise that he would advocate for a teammate.