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Free Agent Spotlight - Free Safety, Jimmie Ward

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At a position that the Bucs need to address, one of the best in the league will soon become available

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There are questions surrounding the Buccaneers’ depth at safety, more specifically free safety. There are still worries around the health and availability of Justin Evans and despite the safety corps stepping up last season, there is still plenty of room for improvement on the back end of the defense.

Fortunately for the Buccaneers there is a player coming off a Super Bowl appearance about to hit the market that can not only drastically improve the secondary, but can step u and be a leader in that room filled with second and third year guys.

JIMMIE WARD’S CAREER THUS FAR

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Drafted thirtieth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft out of Northern Illinois, Jimmie Ward has become one of the anchors of a championship caliber defense. After starting 44 games in six seasons, Ward has accumulated 251 tackles, 29 passes defensed, nine tackles for loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and a touchdown.

Unfortunately for Ward, he’s missed quite a bit of time due to injury over the course of his career. Before being drafted, Ward had a pedal foot fracture requiring a screw be placed in his foot. Six months later, he had to have surgery again to fix the screw causing him to miss seven games. Ward has also missed time due to two different quad strains, concussion, broken clavicle, and two different broken forearm injuries in back to back years.

When he’s on the field, he’s one of the most effective safeties in the game. Unfortunately, the guy has the absolute worst luck when it comes to the injury front. These aren’t recurring issues, just various differing injuries that have derailed part of his playing career.

WHY IT WORKS

For starters, he’s every coach’s dream. His work ethic, his level of play, his love of football - it all shows up when Ward is on the field. Kyle Shanahan even said about Ward, “I’d wear his jersey on the sideline if I could. I love his mentality. I love watching him play.”

Putting Ward on the back end of Todd Bowles’ defense gives the Bucs a versatile safety and a trusted resource along the last line of defense. His leadership and experience will help guys like Mike Edwards and Jordan Whitehead improve their game, making the Bucs’ secondary even better than they were the latter half of 2019.

BUT...

The cost will be the big hangup. Ward is coming off a one year, $4.5 million dollar deal - $3 million guaranteed - where Ward was a major factor in the 49ers’ Super Bowl run. Much like Shaquil Barrett, Ward bet on himself to get paid this off-season and he may very well have done that. In thirteen starts for the 49ers in 2019, Ward had a career high 65 tackles as well as eight passes defensed. A key forced fumble in the Super Bowl when laying a hit on Patrick Mahomes certainly put him in the spotlight on the NFL’s biggest stage.

WHAT’S THE COST?

Per Spotrac, Ward’s market value should come in north of seven million per season which may put the Buccaneers out of the running given the defensive players they want/need to bring back as well as the need to address quarterback in one way, shape, or form. Those costs are going to add up quickly and they may not have the luxury of spending that much money on a safety.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

For starters, we still don’t know the actual status of Justin Evans. If Evans is healthy and the Bucs expect him to return, this is all a moot point. We also don’t know how high on the priority list the free safety position will be for the Bucs. The front seven is being stressed, we already know that. The quarterback quandary obviously is number one as it’s the most important position on the field and the Bucs currently don’t have one.

As much as Ward might help, the Buccaneers may be addressing other needs early in the free agent process when Ward is likely going to be scooped up.

MAKE THE DECISION

San Francisco 49ers versus Green Bay Packers in NFC Championship Jose Carlos Fajardo/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

Is Jimmie Ward the missing piece to the secondary? He’s going to cost a pretty penny, but would it be worth it for this defense moving into 2020 and beyond?

Vote here and discuss in the comments below.

Poll

When it comes to Jimmie Ward, what would you have the Buccaneers do?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Sign Him, No Matter What
    (6 votes)
  • 61%
    Make An Offer, But Keep It Reasonable
    (44 votes)
  • 18%
    Invite Him For A Cup Of Coffee And See Where It Goes From There
    (13 votes)
  • 4%
    Call Him Up If There’s A Need After The Draft
    (3 votes)
  • 8%
    Don’t Need Him
    (6 votes)
72 votes total Vote Now