San Francisco experienced some shuffling across its defensive backfield in 2021. And the team hopes that the addition of Charvarius Ward will finally bring stability to the cornerback position.
Injuries plagued the 49ers early last season, including an untimely loss in the team's season opener.
In Week 1 against the Detroit Lions, the 49ers lost veteran corner Jason Verrett to a season-ending ACL injury. Last season, Verrett returned to San Francisco on a one-year deal after an encouraging 2020 campaign where he showed flashes of his Pro Bowl-caliber play.
Injuries to starter Emmanuel Moseley forced the unit to rely on rookie corners Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir, who both made starts at various points of the season, in addition to veterans Josh Norman and Dontae Johnson.
Verrett, Johnson, Norman and nickel cornerback K'Waun Williams, who spent the last five seasons in San Francisco, entered 2022 with expiring contracts with the 49ers, leaving Moseley, Thomas and Lenoir as the lone corners on the roster.
Undoubtedly, cornerback was a top priority for San Francisco entering the offseason, especially considering the team's depth, or lack thereof.
San Francisco signed the former Kansas City Chiefs defensive back to a three-year deal at the start of the new league year on Wednesday. Originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State in 2018, he was traded to Kansas City ahead of the regular season and went on to appear in 13 games and made two starts.
He appeared in 56 games with 43 starts across his first four seasons in the NFL. Over his career, Ward has posted 222 total tackles, three for loss, a sack, three quarterback hits, four interceptions, 29 passes defended and a forced fumble.
Pro Football Focus noted him as Kansas City's most improved player in 2021 as he was targeted on 17.9 percent of his coverage snaps, the 14th-highest rate among NFL corners. However, Ward held his own and recorded a career-high PFF grade of 71.2.
The analytics site also highlighted Ward as one of the "best pure tacklers at wide corner" in the NFL. His five percent missed tackle percentage is the lowest rate among the top 75 outside cornerbacks in total tackles since 2019.
Ward, 25, is a player on the ascend who San Francisco hopes can help solve their long term questions at cornerback. With the 49ers quartet of corners under contract heading into the year, the addition of Ward significantly bolsters the 49ers backfield and importantly, should aid in helping their-now second-year corners develop alongside fellow presumed starter, Moseley.
"I got experience doing everything," Ward said to the media on Thursday. "I've been in the NFL for four years. I've covered inside, outside, I've blitzed a little bit. Whatever this coaching staff wants me to do, I'm going to promise you I'll do it to the best of my ability and they won't be disappointed. Nor will the fans."