Charvarius Ward made a storybook rich

There were exactly 100 seconds left in Super Bowl LIV when wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders lined up for one of the most infamous plays in 49ers history. Opposite him was Charvarius Ward, an unsung cornerback who was finishing his first full season as a Kansas City Chiefs starter.

Sanders burst out of the line of scrimmage, cut inside Ward, ran through cornerback Rashad Fenton, then broke free as Jimmy Garoppolo threw a potential, championship-winning touchdown pass.

This overturned ball sadly fell incomplete. The 49ers lost the Lombardi Trophy to the Chiefs, 31-20.

Fast forward 25 months later to Monday night: Ward was once again targeted by the 49ers, who agreed to a lucrative contract with him on the opening day of free agency talks.

Ward agreed to a three-year, $42 million contract with $26.7 million guaranteed, according to his agency, Universal Sports Management. Once the league year opens on Wednesday and the deal is official, it will be the biggest contract for a 49ers cornerback (adjusting inflation) since Richard Sherman signed in 2018 on a three-year contract that paid $10 million a year.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – FEBRUARY 2: Kendrick Bourne (84) of the San Francisco 49ers runs after a catch against Charvarius Ward (35) of the Kansas City Chiefs in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, in Florida on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

With Ward’s deal averaging $14 million a year — as ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported — he records two bigger deals brokered earlier Monday below: JC Jackson ( Chargers; five years, $82.5 million) and Carlton Davis (Bucs; three years, $45 million), according to multiple reports.

The still-expensive deal could signal the 49ers are considering clearing some salary cap margin, whether by extending high-priced veterans or trading (or releasing) quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo ($24 million in salary). 2022).

It’s also quite the jackpot for a cornerback who four years ago was undrafted from Middle Tennessee State University, where he was teammate with wide receiver Richie James Jr., a seventh pick. tour in 2018 by the 49ers (and current free agent).

James, in fact, beat Ward for a last-minute game-winning touchdown catch in the pair’s professional debut, the 2018 preseason opener.

Ward entered the NFL signing for $5,000 guaranteed with the Dallas Cowboys, who traded him just before the kickoff of their 2018 preseason finale. The 6-foot-1 cornerback has was sent to the Chiefs for guard Parker Ehringer, a free agent seeking his eighth team in five years.

Richie James Jr. (82) of the San Francsico 49ers scores the game-winning touchdown past Charvarius Ward (40) of the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter of their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, August 9, 2018 (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

“I was shocked. I started crying at first,” Ward reminded at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, a few days before the Super Bowl against the 49ers. “I started crying because I didn’t know if I was going to make the Kansas City team. Preseason was over and training camp was over. I wondered. I didn’t know .

He made the team. He was part of the starting lineup. He became a multi-millionaire, his 26th birthday ahead of him on May 16.

Ward earned a career-high $3.4 million last season on a one-year deal as the Chiefs’ restricted free agent. In 43 starts and 56 games, Ward has only four interceptions. In his 2018 rookie final, he made a potential interception for the AFC Championship against Tom Brady, only to have it nullified by an offside penalty from Dee Ford, which was traded two months later. late to the 49ers.

Last season, Ward was the 14th most targeted cornerback in the NFL (17.9% of his cover shots) and he ranked 16th in the Pro Football Focus rankings.

It’s a late bloomer, so to speak.

“I’m just a humble young man”, Ward Recount Chiefs.com before their Super Bowl against the 49ers. “I am calm and relaxed. But I try to help people as best I can. I have a lot of talent in the NFL and I will be a great player one day.

Ward grew up 110 miles north of New Orleans in McComb, Mississippi (population: 12,790). He joined his high school team during his senior year, then spent two years at Hinds (Mississippi) Community College before transferring to Middle Tennessee State. He was not invited to the NFL scouting combine that followed.

“To see where he came from and where he is now is amazing,” said Tanya Ward, his mother, told the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal in January 2020. “He was not one of those kids who played football his whole life. People always say ‘I know you’re proud of him’ and I am, but football is just a bonus.

“I’m proud of the kid because he grew up in the ghetto, not having much but always trying to do well,” Tanya Ward added. “He did well in school, never had any problems, then football came later in his life. Once he got it into his head that he wanted to play football, he didn’t let anything stop him from playing. It’s honestly unbelievable.”

Opposite Ward, we’ll likely start with Emmanuel Moseley, who teamed up late last season with rookie Ambry Thomas, a third-round pick who came out on top at the end of the year.

The 49ers need more depth, and re-signing one of their own free agents still seems possible, but not in Ward’s price range.

Among the 49ers’ 20 unrestricted free agents are cornerbacks Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Josh Norman.

Earning an elite starting cornerback was a necessity, which meant redirecting funds away from the 49ers’ top free agents, resulting in the departure of guard Laken Tomlinson (New York Jets) and defensive tackle DJ Jones (Denver Broncos).

More moves are coming, but likely not at the expense of signing Ward, which the 49ers have done against older free agents like Stephon Gilmore, Joe Haden, Kyle Fuller, Chris Harris and Patrick Peterson.

Nor did it come at the price of the sticker of an infamous 49ers cornerback in 2007: Nate Clements, who was released four seasons into his eight-year, $80 million contract.

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