Free agent defensive back Jimmie Ward is expected to sign a free-agent contract with the Houston Texans, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Monday night, citing sources.
Sirius XM's Adam Caplan reported, citing league sources, that Ward's agreement with the Texans is for $13 million over two years.
The agreement between Ward and the Texans reunites the veteran with former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who was hired as Houston's new head coach earlier this offseason.
Ward's move to the AFC South ends his nine-year tenure with the 49ers after they selected him with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
With sources confirming to NBC Sports Bay Area on Sunday that the 49ers and safety Tashaun Gipson have agreed to terms on a one-year contract, the writing was on the wall regarding Ward's departure.
Ward spent the last few seasons playing safety for the 49ers but shifted to nickel cornerback in 2022 and finished with a career-high three interceptions in 12 games. He also recorded 50 total tackles, including 38 solo.
Shortly after the 49ers' NFC Championship Game loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in January, Ward indicated to reporters that he knew his ability to play nickel and safety would help him on the free-agent market.
"I'm good at safety and I'm good at nickel,” Ward told reporters postgame. “I'm a good football player, so it's going to help me in free agency."
The split between Ward and the 49ers might have been a foregone conclusion based on comments by the 31-year-old and 49ers general manager John Lynch since the season ended.
On Jan. 31, Ward went on Instagram Live and revealed that coach Kyle Shanahan essentially told him before the season that he was going to play nickel cornerback or he wasn't going to play.
"I said, 'Hey Coach Kyle, put me back at my position. I want to play safety,' " Ward said. "He looked back and was like, ‘What do you want to do, dude? Do you want to ride the bench?'
"I was like, ‘Oh, s--t.' This man just told me do I want to ride the bench. Knowing me, I said, ‘Yeah, just put me on special teams because I’d be a good special teams player.'
"Bro, he told me, ‘Do you want to ride the bench?’ He let me know right there my spot was gone."
While speaking with reporters at the recently completed NFL Scouting Combine, Lynch pushed back on the idea that Shanahan was going to bench Ward if he didn't accept the assignment.
"Kyle doesn’t remember it quite like that,” Lynch said. “We were never benching Jimmie. I think he more tried to sell him on why it was a good thing for him and our team.”
But as free agency was set to get underway, Ward went back on Instagram Live to keep the door open to a 49ers return.
"I didn’t say I’m leaving the Niners, man," Ward said March 7 on Instagram Live. "... I’ve been in contact with the Niners. I don’t know how it’s going to go. … I could be playing nickel for the Niners next year, I don’t know. We’ll see. I’ve got to look at the best situation."
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The door now is closed, with Ward headed to Houston. It's unclear what position he will play under Ryans, but with the Texans in a rebuilding mode, it's likely he will play whatever spot is best for the team.