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San Francisco 49ers star Jimmie Ward sidelined to injury: 3 safety options for the team

Vincent Frank

One day after San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward was named one of the top-100 players in the NFL, the former first-round pick is sidelined to injury.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan announced on Monday that Ward has suffered a serious hamstring strain, placing into question his availability for Week 1 against the Chicago Bears.

To say that this injury is a big deal would be an understatement. Since joining San Francisco back in 2014, Ward has morphed into one of the better safeties in the NFL. Despite some injuries earlier in his career, Ward has returned to play a combined 43 games over the past three years. He’s also coming off a career-best performance for the 49ers.

  • Jimmie Ward stats (2021): 77 tackles, 6 passes defended, 2 interceptions, 59% completion percentage allowed

San Francisco lost starting strong safety Jaquiski Tartt to the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency this past offseason. Tartt and Ward had teamed up to create an under-the-radar safety tandem in Northern California throughout the years.

This will change once Week 1 comes calling with second-year player Talanoa Hufanga likely replacing Tartt as the 49ers’ strong safety. The combination of Tarvarius Moore and veteran free agent signing George Odum are in-house candidates to replace Ward in the short-term.

As legit Super Bowl contenders, San Francisco will also likely look outside of the organization for a veteran presence. Below, we check in on three options.

Related: Jimmie Ward and top 2023 NFL free agents

San Francisco 49ers add Curtis Riley to the mix

san francisco 49ers replace jimmie ward with curtis riley
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Riley might not be considered a big-name replacement for Jimmie Ward over the short-term. But he does have some level of success since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent of the Tennessee Titans back in 2015.

The Fresno State product’s best season came when he was a member of the New York Giants in 2018. Riley started all 16 games, recording 75 tackles and four interceptions. That season saw him yield a mere 80.2 passer rating. Sure injuries and inconsistency have caught up with the 30-year-old safety. But this success can’t go unnoticed.

Related: Find out where the San Francisco 49ers rank among NFL defenses

Tashaun Gipson gives the San Francisco 49ers a former Pro Bowler to replace Jimmie Ward

san francisco 49ers sign tashaun gipson
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Since entering the league as an undrafted free agent of the Cleveland Browns in 2012, Gipson has started 132 of 140 games in which he’s played. That includes all 114 over the past eight seasons. He recorded two interceptions in 12 games (all starts) with the Chicago Bears a season ago.

Gipson, 32, would be a plug-and-play safety until Ward returns from injury. It’s not like he hasn’t had success, either. Back in 2014 with Cleveland, Gipson registered six interceptions en route to earning his first and only Pro Bowl appearance. It’s surprising that he remains on the NFL free-agent market with preseason having got going.

Related: San Francisco 49ers schedule and game-by-game predictions

49ers pull off blockbuster Jessie Bates trade

san francisco 49ers sign jessie bates
Albert Cesare, Cincinnati Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

By now, it’s well known that Bates is unhappy about being handed the franchise tag by Cincinnati after he helped the team to a Super Bowl appearance a season ago. He threatened to sit out rather than play under the tag and has been a hold out during training camp.

There’s some major issues as it relates to San Francisco pulling off a trade of this ilk. First off, Bates will count $12.9 million against the cap in 2022. Secondly, the 49ers still lack draft capital stemming from the trade to acquire Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft.

With that said, these two things can work themselves out. San Francisco will save north of $24 million against the cap once it trades or releases Jimmy Garoppolo. Cincinnati likely won’t be able to fetch much more than a second-round pick and change for the star safety. Imagine Bates and Jimmie Ward teaming up in the 49ers’ secondary this season once the latter returns. That would be all sorts of sexy.