49ers exercise 5th-year option on DB Jimmie Ward

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have exercised the fifth-year option on defensive back Jimmie Ward for the 2018 season.

Ward signed a four-year contract after being picked 30th overall in 2014. The 49ers had until Wednesday to decide whether to exercise an option for 2018 and opted Monday to keep Ward under contract. The deal for the fifth year will be guaranteed for injury only.

Ward has played in 35 games with 18 starts in his first three seasons. He has 117 tackles, 19 passes defensed, two sacks and two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He started a career-high 10 games last year with 64 tackles, one interception and a career-best 12 passes defensed.

After playing almost exclusively at cornerback his first three seasons, Ward is expected to move to free safety this season. The Niners did not draft a player for that role this weekend since they've been pleased with what they've seen from Ward in limited practice time this offseason.

''I was real excited with what we saw from him in camp,'' first-year-coach Kyle Shanahan said. ''It was the first time I'd seen him at the safety position and thought he did a very good job. It was just two practices, it's unpadded, but he has definitely the ability and the want-to to play there.''

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