San Francisco 49ers

49ers notes: Why San Francisco is OK with Jimmie Ward's top-five salary

Jimmie Ward is being eased back into practice after suffering a hamstring injury last month.
Jimmie Ward is being eased back into practice after suffering a hamstring injury last month. The Bee

The 49ers' Jimmie Ward made news recently for relinquishing – for what turned out to be a small fee – his No. 25 jersey to his new and much more high-profile defensive back teammate, Richard Sherman.

There also was a far bigger number associated with Ward: $8.526 million. That's his fifth-year option amount, which became fully guaranteed when the new NFL year began on Wednesday.

That makes the former first-round pick, whose career thus far has been marked by injuries, the fifth-highest-paid player on the team behind quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, incoming free agents Jerick McKinnon and Weston Richburg, and veteran receiver Pierre Garcon.

General manager John Lynch said the team was comfortable with that price tag. Ward will enter the 2018 season as the favorite at free safety, although 2017 rookie Adrian Colbert played well at the spot after Ward went on injured reserve in November with a broken forearm.

“We think Jimmie Ward is a really good football player," Lynch said. "We think his versatility is what allows us to be comfortable with that (salary). Jimmie’s a guy who can play safety. We saw that. He can play outside corner. He can also play the nickel. I think because of that, he becomes very valuable."

Ward has missed 22 games in four seasons with a variety of issues, including a broken foot and collarbone and last year's forearm fracture. Lynch said some of those injuries speak to his style of play, which is what the 49ers like about him.

"Early in my career, I couldn’t stay healthy," Lynch, a 15-year safety, said. "Then I went about seven, eight years where I never missed a game. We’re hopeful that can come. Sometimes you learn how to take care of your body. Part of it is he plays so darn hard. But we love that about him and we’re pleased to have him as a part of our group.”

Tank's a Raider – Free-agent defensive lineman Tank Carradine, a second-round pick by the 49ers in 2013, signed a one-year deal with the Raiders on Saturday.

Carradine had visited both the Raiders and Seahawks in recent days. Carradine played defensive end in a 4-3 scheme at Florida State and had 11 sacks as a senior.

He never had much opportunity as an edge rusher in San Francisco. Last year he drew praise from defensive coordinator Robert Saleh for the way he played in run support at the team's so-called "big end" position. Carradine, however, came off the field on third downs.

He promises to get more of an opportunity at his college position with the Raiders, who will visit Levi's Stadium during the regular season.

Et cetera – The fifth-year option that Ward received allows teams to control the rights of former first-round draft picks for one season beyond the mandatory four-year contract but at a much higher price. The 49ers must decide whether to give another often-injured player, Arik Armstead, an option for 2019 by May 3. Last year the amount for defensive ends like him was $8.625 million.

Center Daniel Kilgore said he wasn't angry at the 49ers for trading him to the Dolphins a month after he signed a three-year deal with San Francisco. “I did want to stay there," he told The Miami Herald. "I had the goal of starting my career there and finishing my career there. That obviously is not going to happen. ... I've been there for seven seasons. This happening, I don't regret it, it's a new chapter for my family and I.”

McKinnon, who wore No. 21 in Minnesota, won't get that number with the 49ers. The franchise's all-time leading rusher, Frank Gore, had it and no one has worn it in a game since Gore left. McKinnon said he'll wear No. 28. Ward will wear No. 20.