SANTA CLARA -- Jimmie Ward this season proved he can play 16 games.

And he proved his best position is free safety.

Now that those issues are cleared up, Ward for the first time faces the uncertainty of heading into the offseason not knowing for which team he will be playing.

“The 49ers have the upper hand right now,” Ward said on Wednesday, as the 49ers were clearing out their lockers at Levi’s Stadium. “This is where I would like to be. I like to continue playing for this great organization.”

Ward also acknowledges that there are players, such as tight end George Kittle and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, whom the 49ers need to sign to contract extensions and not run the risk of allowing them to hit free agency in the future because of the cost it would take to retain them on the open market.

That leaves Ward uncertain of where he fits into the 49ers' long-term plan.

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Ward was a free agent at the end of last season. But he did not have much value because he was coming off three consecutive seasons that were cut short due to broken bones. When the 2018 season concluded, the 49ers were the clear front-runner to retain Ward on a one-year contract.

 

As he enters his seventh NFL season, Ward is likely to attract some attention as a free agent. After missing the first three games of the season, Ward played the final 16 games, including three in the postseason.

He has a clear vision for 2020, too. He no longer wants to be valued for his versatility. He is a safety. And that’s it.

“Yes, it’s amazing I can do other things, too,” he said. “But leave me at safety. That’s what I love to do. That’s what I’m most passionate about. Basically, if it don’t work out with the 49ers, I’m going to look at any possibilities with teams that want me to play safety.”