June 24, 2024

If the Minnesota Vikings allow veteran cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. to play out the final year of his contract this season, they could look to San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Charvarius Ward in free agency as a potential replacement.

Bleacher Report’s scouting department has identified Ward as a possible replacement if the Vikings decide not to re-sign Murphy. Murphy joined the Vikings in 2023 on a two-year, $17.5 million deal, which expires after this season.

Byron Murphy Jr.

This season is crucial for Murphy, whom the Vikings signed to be their slot cornerback but moved to the outside due to depth issues. Brian Flores mentioned his intention to play Murphy more in the slot this year, explaining that Murphy played outside last season because “that’s where we needed him.”

Murphy, 26, led the team with three interceptions last year but struggled in coverage, allowing a 102.0 passer rating when targeted, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).

Ward, while lacking the same position versatility, possesses undeniable talent. He could be a more valuable addition to the Vikings’ secondary, which saw safeties Camryn Bynum and Josh Metellus play more snaps in the slot than Murphy last year.

Last season was a breakout year for Ward, 28, who has steadily risen through the NFL ranks since going undrafted in 2018.

Ward earned Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors, receiving an 84.7 overall defensive grade from PFF and posting the fourth-highest coverage grade (86.5) among all cornerbacks in the league. He was a reliable tackler, ranking seventh in tackles (71) with an 8.0% missed tackle rate.

“The 49ers could rely on Ward in coverage in 2023. Forcing 21 incompletions and hauling in five interceptions, he also was one of the best tacklers in coverage, with 20 pass stops. Ward set a career low in passer rating allowed (59.2), as opposing quarterbacks were better off looking elsewhere when attacking the 49ers’ secondary,” PFF’s John Kosko wrote.

While Ward is regarded as one of the best press corners in the league, he also played 68.4% of his snaps in zone coverage.

How 49ers Signee Charvarius Ward Went From Unwanted Prospect To $40 Million  Man

A player of Ward’s caliber typically wouldn’t reach free agency under ideal circumstances, but with the 49ers projected to be $38 million over the 2025 salary cap, they will likely need to part ways with several talented players next season — especially with Brock Purdy due for an extension as well.

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