DeMeco Ryans Expected to Add First Big Piece for 49ers-Style Defense

While DeMeco Ryans is getting reacclimated with his Houston surroundings, the former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinators is expected to add his first big piece to his 49ers-style attack.

First reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network on Monday, March 13, the Houston Texans are expected to add Niners free agent defensive back Jimmie Ward. His addition to the Texan defense plans on “giving new coach DeMeco Ryans a familiar face and leader in his defensive backfield” as Rapoport said.

The move will also keep Ward and Ryans together for the seventh straight season, as Ryans first arrived to the Bay Area in 2017 when Ward was beginning his transition to the Kyle Shanahan era.

And as noted by The Athletic’s 49ers insider David Lombardi, Ward was the last remaining connection to the Jim Harbaugh era. The rest of this 49ers roster is stockpiled on guys Shanahan helped lure in via the draft or free agency.

With Ward anticipated to head to Houston by Wednesday, March 15 when the league’s free agency signing period becomes official, he will become the third member of the 49ers to leave via free agency on Monday. His teammates right tackle Mike McGlinchey and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo were linked as signings to the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders, respectively.

Ward Expressed Interest in Staying With 49ers

Nearly a week ago, the safety Ward sounded off on his future with the franchise while talking to his fans via his personal Instagram page.

While going on Instagram Live, Ward cleared the air about how he really felt about his status with the Niners.

“I didn’t say I’m leaving the Niners, man,” Ward said (h/t Tom Dierberger of NBC Sports Bay Area on March 6). He also added “I’ve been in contact with the Niners. I don’t know how it’s going to go. I could be playing nickel for the Niners next year, I don’t know. We’ll see. I’ve got to look at the best situation.” He concluded how he hoped Shanahan and general manager John Lynch would “throw your boy a bag,” meaning he hoped to see a new deal from them.

There was also the rumbling that Ward was refusing to move to the nickelback role he was plugged in during his final campaign as a 49er. But he stated he never refused to play that position.

“I always wanted to play nickel because I watch a lot of film,” Ward said.

Ward Seeing End to ‘Hell of a Run’

With Ward set to be on his way out, it not only leaves a void in the DB room, but as Lombardi outlined, Ward delivered a “hell of a run” in the Bay Area that included playing every DB position and having played for four different head coaches (Jim Tomsula was his head coach for the 2015 season).

Hell of a run for Jimmie Ward with 49ers:

-9 years
-115 games
-played every DB position (S, CB, NB)
-stuck w/ SF through 4 coaches
-overcame early-career injuries to become a decade-long NFL fixture

From Harbaugh to Shanahan. Fitting that ex-49ers coach DeMeco Ryans grabbed him

— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) March 14, 2023

Ward ended up creating a fan in former NFL linebacker and Fox Sports personality Emmanuel Acho.

“I love Jimmie’s game. Humble, tough, leader and very versatile! Should be the backbone of a team that desperately needs on field leadership,” Acho said to Rapoport. Acho additionally added his favorite play he saw from Ward — which was during the NFC Divisional round win over the Dallas Cowboys.

My favorite Jimmie Ward play of the was a play fans don’t see at home. It came in their biggest win of the season on kickoff. Cowboys Pro Bowl returner makes 2 men miss. And Jimmie Ward saves his team from what likely would’ve cost them the game. https://t.co/wAr8wMlPfM pic.twitter.com/WfJpFsHAv5

— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) March 14, 2023

Ryans is again adding past 49ers representation to his first Texans team. Former 49ers passing game coordinator Bobby Slowik is taking the offensive coordinator reins while Nick Kray holds the title of chief of staff.

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