The Houston Texans signed free agent DB Jimmie Ward, reuniting him with his former defensive coordinator, now head coach DeMeco Ryans. A 10-year veteran with the San Francisco 49ers, Ward brings exactly what Ryans wants into his locker room, leadership and experience in his defensive scheme.
"Initially you want to bring guys in who know exactly how I want things done, how our culture will be set," Ryans said Monday at the annual NFL spring meeting in Arizona. "You want to bring those guys in but also knowing it doesn't just work that day. To be able to get a guy like Jimmie Ward is very vital for our defense. Jimmie is a guy, I feel – he plays safety in our scheme. He's played nickel. Jimmie is a veteran guy who's played a lot of football."
Ward has excelled under the bright lights of the NFL. Last year, Ward played in all three postseason games last year for the 49ers, recording 11 tackles (10 solo), one tackle for loss, three passes defensed and two special teams tackles. In 2021 he intercepted Rams QB Matthew Stafford in the NFC Championship game. During the Super Bowl LIV against Kansas City, he tied his career-high with 10 tackles (eight solo). A first-round draft pick (30th overall) in 2014, Ward made a big impact last year in the 49ers top-ranked defense, posting 50 tackles (38 solo), five passes defensed, one forced fumble and a career-high three interceptions during the 2022 regular season.
"With the younger guys that we have, we have a very young group, young nucleus of players who are talented," Ryans said. "I feel like Jimmie can come in and just help those guys, aside from the football aspect but also just off the field, just how to be a true pro. That's what Jimmie provides and brings to those guys, and excited to get a guy who can do it and the leadership role he can provide off the field, and on the field Jimmie is still playing football at a high level. So, to add a safety who can make dynamic plays for us was very vital."
Ward joins Jalen Pitre, a talented second-year safety, in the backfield or could play nickel next to another second-year player in last year's No. 3 overall selection in Derek Stingley Jr. While Ward brings versatility to the Texans secondary, both he and Ryans agree on where he fits best, safety.
"Of course, everyone knows Jimmie wants to play safety," Ryans said. "But in talking to Jimmie last year, I always told him, when you play the nickel position and you can play the safety position, it just opens up a lot more avenues for you, and that's what it's done for Jimmie. Jimmie has been very fun to work with because he's jumped into that nickel role, and he thrived in the role, made probably more plays than he's made playing safety, so Jimmie can play anywhere, but I'm going to play him at safety."
During his career, Ward has appeared in 106 regular season games (79 starts), totaling 433 tackles (324 solo), 11 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, five quarterback hits, seven interceptions, two defensive touchdowns, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.