Report: 49ers FA Jimmie Ward Expected to Sign Texans Contract After DeMeco Ryans Hire

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMarch 14, 2023

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 29: Jimmie Ward #1 of the San Francisco 49ers stands on the sidelines during the national anthem prior to the NFC Championship NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on January 29, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Jimmie Ward has been with the San Francisco 49ers for all nine of his NFL seasons, but that will change during the 2023 campaign.

The defensive back is expected to sign with the Houston Texans, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The move reunites Ward with former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who is now head coach of the Texans.

It will be unusual to see Ward suit up for a different team after being such a key piece of San Francisco's defense for so long.

The 49ers selected the Northern Illinois product with a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, and he helped lead them to a pair of Super Bowl appearances and three NFC Championship games.

While Ward told reporters after a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the most recent NFC Championship Game that he was open to returning to the only NFL team he has known, he also made it seem like his time may be coming to an end.

"I feel like the 49ers are going to have a great team next year and years to come," he said. "They've got some great players in this building and a great coaching staff, great GM, great owner. They know what they're doing. So I'm pretty sure they're going to be in this position next year."

Ward also added, "I'm good at safety, and I'm good at nickel. I'm a good football player, so it's going to help me in free agency."

The veteran safety moved to nickelback this past season thanks to the addition of Tashaun Gipson, showing off a defensive versatility that was surely appealing to teams in need of secondary depth across the league.

Ward covered wide receivers and tight ends in the slot, played run support at times and was integral toward preventing explosive plays downfield. That earned him an impressive Pro Football Focus grade of 76.1 ahead of free agency.

While durability is something of a concern with Ward—who will turn 32 years old before the 2023 campaign—after he appeared in seven games in 2017 and eight in 2018, the 12 contests he played in 2022 marked his fourth straight year with at least that many appearances.

He took advantage of those 12 games and finished the season with 50 tackles, five passes defended, three interceptions and one forced fumble for a team that was one win away from reaching the Super Bowl.

The Texans will be looking for a repeat performance from him during the upcoming season.