49ers

Ward's versatility gives 49ers plenty of options in defensive backfield

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AP

Ward's versatility gives 49ers plenty of options in defensive backfield

ORLANDO, Fla. – When defensive back Jimmie Ward remained on the 49ers’ roster on the first day of the new league year earlier this month, his $8.5 million salary became fully guaranteed.

His status on the team is certain. Where he ultimately lines up is not.

The 49ers will use four weeks of practices in May and June to determine where Ward will line up when the club reports back this summer for training camp, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings.

“We know he’s capable of starting in a number of spots,” Shanahan said. “I also know he gives us depth at a number of spots

“I think Jimmie is one of the very important guys on the team because I think he’s good enough to start at five different spots, and I also think he’s good enough to be the second-best at five different spots. Jimmie is going to play for us this year. I can’t say exactly where. I say that as a compliment because he’s good at a lot of different spots.”

Adrian Colbert started six games at free safety last season as a rookie. He will open the offseason with the first unit, with Jaquiski Tartt lining up at strong safety. Ahkello Witherspoon will start at one cornerback position. Ward will handle the duties on the other side, taking the spot Richard Sherman is expected to fill during the regular season. Sherman is not expected to participate in the offseason program as he returns from separate surgeries to repair a torn Achilles and remove bone spurs.

Ward has played all 16 games just once in his first four seasons after the 49ers selected him in the first round of the 2014 draft. His durability has been a concern.

“When you break your forearm playing football, it’s hard for me to say you’re injury-prone,” Shanahan said. “He plays physical. That’s what he did last year. I love how the guy plays, the way he played safety for us last year, it was fun to watch. He plays the exact way we want a guy to play.

“If he can put a full year together and stay healthy, everybody will appreciate the kind of player he is.”

After the offseason program, Shanahan said the 49ers will reconsider their lineup in the defensive backfield with the additions of Sherman and any rookies, as well as figuring out at which position Ward best serves the team.

Why Colin Kaepernick's NFL settlement doesn't mean he'll rejoin league

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AP

Why Colin Kaepernick's NFL settlement doesn't mean he'll rejoin league

Just a few short years ago, the NFL was more than willing to go the legal distance with a recognizable quarterback.

New England Patriots star Tom Brady's appeal of a four-game suspension made its way up the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, or one stop shy of the U.S. Supreme Court, for those of you who fell asleep during civics class in high school. Brady was suspended for allegedly deflating footballs, and the league fought him tooth and nail one stop shy of the nation's highest court.

It's telling that the NFL didn't do the same to former 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick and Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid.

The former San Francisco teammates were the first two NFL players to kneel during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality, and they settled their collusion grievances with the league Friday. An NFL team has not signed Kaepernick since he opted out of his contract with the 49ers following the 2016 season, and Reid did not sign with the Panthers until October. 

NFL officials speculated to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman that Kaepernick's settlement ranged from $60 million to $80 million. The settlement avoided the hearing the parties were scheduled for later this month.

Considering Brady's legal challenge only ended after he decided not to continue an appeals process nearly 18 months after his initial suspension, that's quite the turnaround. 

Although Kaepernick would have had to clear a high legal bar to prove collusion, NFL might have settled in order to save its own skin. In August, a mediator first ruled that Kaepernick had raised enough evidence to move forward in his claim. 

The San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler reported Friday that he previously heard from sources some of that evidence was "very embarassing" to the league that would have been made public if the case went to trial, while Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted that "the disclosure of a likely treasure trove of" various documents "could have been devastating to the NFL."

We might never know what that evidence could have looked like, or if the NFL truly colluded to keep Kaepernick out of the league. Both sides agreed to confidentiality, after all. 

But the existence of that agreement discloses plenty on its own, and begs another question: What does it all mean for Kaepernick's future on the field? 

[RELATED: Colorado sports store closes after Nike, Kaepernick boycott]

Unlike Brady, Kaepernick still might not play again. He reportedly has continued to work out and prepare should the opportunity arise, but some teams implied or straight-up said it had been too long since he played back in 2017. What will they say now that his suit is settled, two full seasons after he last played?

They'll probably say the same things, paraphrase NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's thoughts and offer up the usual excuses about Kaepernick "not fitting their system." There also is the possibility, as Florio noted, that Kaepernick's settlement "includes a provision that he won’t seek, and won’t be offered, NFL employment."

With the NFL rumor mill ramping up in advance of the start of the league year, we could know whether or not that's the case as soon as next month. Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill and Tyrod Taylor headline a largely uninspiring crop of potential free-agent QBs, and Kaepernick is (at worst) a comparable passer to all four.

Of course, that didn't stop all 32 teams from choosing not to sign him before. With his legal challenge officially settled, what's stopping them now? 

Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid resolve pending grievances against NFL

Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid resolve pending grievances against NFL

Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid have settled their collusion grievances against the National Football League with a confidential settlement, lawyers representing both men and the NFL announced Friday in a joint statement.

“For the past several months, counsel for Mr. Kaepernick and Mr. Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL," the statement read. "As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”

Kaepernick, 31, has remained out of the NFL since the end of the 2016 season. He played six seasons with the 49ers and became the center of a nationwide controversy with his decision to kneel during the playing of the national anthem as a protest against racial inequality during the 2016 season.

Reid, 27, joined Kaepernick in the protest, which began during the exhibition season in 2016. Reid continued his protest in 2017 with the 49ers and last season with the Carolina Panthers. Reid is a six-year NFL veteran who played his first five seasons with the 49ers.

While Kaepernick has not played in the NFL the past two seasons, Reid experienced a slow free-agent market last offseason before finally signing with the Panthers in late September. Reid appeared in 13 games for the Panthers and last week signed a three-year extension worth more than $21 million.

The NFL Players Association released the following statement:

"Today, we were informed by the NFL of the settlement of the Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid collusion cases. We are not privy to the details of the settlement, but support the decision by the players and their counsel. We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them. We are glad that Eric has earned a job and a new contract, and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well."

[RELATED: AAF reportedly interested in Kaepernick]

In August, an arbitrator denied the NFL’s request to throw out the claims that owners conspired to keep Kaepernick out of the league because of his protests. The grievance was scheduled to be heard this month.

In November 2017, attorney Mark Geragos, representing Kaepernick, notified the NFL they were seeking electronic communications, including text messages and emails, of personnel from NFL teams that were linked to Kaepernick.