Sakamoto: 49ers Jimmie Ward likely moving to Free Safety, Eric Reid to Strong Safety

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals is upended by cornerback Jimmie Ward #25 of the San Francisco 49ers and outside linebacker Eli Harold #58 during the second quarter of the NFL football game at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 13, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers will be reverting back to a traditional 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. A new coaching staff, new scheme, and new personnel will certainly feature a new look for the upcoming season. Yesterday, we got a glimpse of things to come, as a few players will be making positional changes according to Coach Saleh. 

In the game of football, games are won down in the trenches. Good coach’s will put their players in the best position to make plays and tailor around the player’s strengths. With that being said, it appears that DE Aaron Lynch will now finally get the opportunity to do what he does best–rush the quarterback from a three-point stance. 

49ers’ held pre draft visit with South Florida OLB Aaron Lynch

“Aaron, he’s on the defensive line. We’re going to try to keep his hand in the ground at all times. A couple years ago, when he came out of the draft [USF], we were looking at him as a possible LEO. So, he has all the traits that you would like. Now it’s a matter of us trying to work with him to best utilize what he’s, in my mind, designed to do and that’s get after the passer.”

Lynch has been the team’s best and most consistent pass-rusher since being drafted by the 49ers back in the 2014 NFL draft as a fifth-round pick (No. 150). To date, the 6-5, 285, USF product has recorded 14.0 sacks including 12.5 in his first two seasons. 

However, Lynch isn’t the only defensive front seven player making a switch, as I asked Coach Saleh about my sleeper pick DE Tank Carradine

I always felt Carradine was better suited for a 4-3 defense. His skill-set determined that while at Florida State. He was never going to be a stout edge-setter as a 3-4 outside linebacker. For one, his feet aren’t quick enough, and his hips aren’t fluid enough to whip around and switch directions on the drop of a dime.

Nothing against Carradine, but that’s just not his game. That’s like asking a point guard in basketball to play the low-post on defense, it’s a clear mismatch and what we like to call, “Mouse in the house.”

Sakamoto: 49ers’ DE Tank Carradine Fluctuates Weight To Play Three-Technique

Carradine has been the ultimate team player since being drafted by the 49ers. It’s hard for any player to endure success when your weight fluctuates drastically from one year to the next. It’s just too much strain on the body. You can read the full details on that story here

Then there’s the questionable secondary. I always felt Eric Reid was better suited for strong safety and asked Coach Saleh if he would be making the switch. “Yeah, Eric is going to be more of a box safety for sure,” Coach Saleh told me.

Below are some tweets I put out months ago in regards as to why Reid should be a strong safety and teammate DB Jimmie Ward moving to free-safety. I even asked then DC Coach O’Neil why not give Ward a shot at free-safety, and O’Neil said he was a ‘corner,’ (see tweets below). 

Sakamoto: 49ers Jimmie Ward Exceeding Trent Baalke Expectations, Fulfilling 3 Year Window

However, with a new regime in place it appears that the team will at least entertain the idea of moving Ward to the backend. And I’m just going to call it now and make the bold prediction that Ward will be the Day one starter as the team’s starting free-safety, if they don’t draft LSU FS Jamal Adams or Ohio State FS Malik Hooker at No. 2.

With the 49ers continuing to re-tool their roster, it will be interesting to see what they do with the No. 2 overall pick, as there are plenty of holes that need to be addressed. 

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.