The 49ers plan to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive back Jimmie Ward for the 2018 season, general manager John Lynch said Saturday.
The league-wide deadline for picking up the option is Wednesday. After the 49ers did not draft a free safety within the first two days of the draft, it became apparent Ward fits into the team’s plan for at least the next two seasons. Coach Kyle Shanahan said he was excited after watching Ward during the team's minicamp this week.
The fifth-year option, a product of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, enables teams to control the rights of first-round draft picks for one season beyond the mandatory four-year contract. The salary for safeties drafted outside the top 10 is $5.957 million.
The salary is guaranteed for injury only. The team can void the deal until the first day of the 2018 league year.
Ward, whom the 49ers selected with the 30th overall pick of the 2014 draft, was the team’s top nickel back in his first two seasons, appearing in 24 games. Last year, Ward moved to cornerback, where he started 11 games before landing on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
With the 49ers’ conversion to a defense based on the Seattle Seahawks’ scheme, Ward is being moved to free safety. He is expected to fill a role based on what Earl Thomas plays with the Seahawks.
Here are the 49ers’ decisions since the inception of the fifth-year option rule:
--The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on Aldon Smith before restructuring the contract. The 49ers eventually released Smith before the start of his fifth season due to multiple off-field incidents.
--Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs before his second NFL season.
--The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option on safety Eric Reid for this season. He is scheduled to earn $5.676 this season.