49ers general manager John Lynch feels comfortable with the team’s group of safeties, which is why they didn’t sign big-name free agents such as Earl Thomas or Landon Collins.
"We feel good about our free safety depth," Lynch said on the team’s website. "We feel we're pretty well stocked there."
Lynch did clarify, saying that his statement doesn’t mean they will avoid looking closely at the deep class of safeties heading into the draft. Quite the opposite, as he reports that his staff always does their due diligence on players that can make the team better.
“It’s not to say,” Lynch said, “if an opportunity presents itself, that we won’t go there, but we feel pretty good at our free safety spot.”
One of the players that Lynch and the 49ers staff has always been complimentary of is Jimmie Ward. During free agency, Ward signed a one year $4.5 million contract to remain with the team for a sixth season. $1.5 million of his contract is in per-game roster bonuses, which means he must be healthy enough to play to receive the payout.
"It was big for us to bring back Jimmie Ward,” Lynch said. “I know that's a hot-button item because he hasn't been able to stay healthy. We aren't blind to that. We understand that.
“There's a lot to like about Jimmie Ward, though, in what he brings. Are we taking a gamble? Yes, but that's accounted for in our contract with him. Jimmie wanted to be here, and we wanted to give him that opportunity to come back."
Another player that Lynch spoke highly of was Adrian Colbert, who he said had a great rookie season. Colbert was forced to play due to injuries in 2017, but had a challenging start to his sophomore year. Lynch believed he was improving prior to his season-ending ankle injury.
“We thought he was starting to play like the guy we saw his rookie season,” Lynch said, “that we really thought was going to be our long term answer at free safety.”
Lynch also mentioned Jaquiski Tartt and Antone Exum as players he was happy to have back. He was especially complimentary of 2018 fifth-round draft pick D.J. Reed.
As a rookie, Reed played in multiple positions, which is challenging even for a veteran. His versatility is something that Lynch sees as very valuable. Reed not only can play both safety positions, but he also can play outside corner or the slot position.
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Reed is also a productive kick and punt returner, averaging 30.2 yards per return in his first season in the NFL.
The 49ers decided to add depth to other defensive positions in free agency by signing Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander, but they will likely add competition at safety in the draft.