The San Francisco 49ers biggest move on the first day of free agency saw them sign Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea to a four year contract. The team officially announced the deal this afternoon after Bethea completed his physical and signed his contract.
The deal is reportedly worth $23 million, and 49ers beat writer Chris Biderman is reporting the deal includes $6.5 million in guarantees. For comparison's sake, Donte Whitner's $28 million deal reportedly includes $13 million in guarantees. We'll have more once the full structure is known, but for now, the 49ers are looking at half the guarantees for a guy who could be a solid replacement for Whitner.
David Neumann (@UndraftedTweets) will have some film breakdown on Bethea, but in the meantime, we've got a few comments about what Bethea brings to the table. I spoke with Josh Wilson from Stampede Blue, and he had the following to say:
Antoine Bethea is a solid safety and a great locker room influence and team leader. A few years ago he was among the best in the league at his position, but the past two years have seen a drop off in play a bit. He is a guy who will play every game, as he hasn't missed a single game in over six seasons, and he will consistently give you production, as he has recorded at least 100 tackles in each of the past four seasons and in five of the past six.
The production is there, no doubt, but his play has dropped off. He is much better against the run than he is against the pass and is best suited in the strong safety position. His pass defense isn't awful but it's not great, either, and while he isn't the player that he used to be, he is still a good safety and a great person. He likely won't be a game changer but he is more than capable of being a starting safety.
Meanwhile, Matt Maiocco was able to get a quotation from an NFL scout (anonymous):
"He's not an elite safety anymore, but he's everything (the 49ers) were looking for," an NFL scout told CSNBayArea.com. "He's smart, hard-working and steady. He's not going to make big plays, but he won't give them up, either."
Greg Cosell broke down Bethea in a film series with PhiladelphiaEagles.com. Cosell was a fan of Bethea's work, and did not think he dropped off quite like people believed. Give the video a watch when you get a minute.
One thing that is worth noting is that Bethea hasn't missed a game since 2007. Health doesn't matter if you can't contribute, but he's been making plays for the Colts this entire stretch. There seem to be some inconsistencies, but one area where he hasn't been inconsistent is penalties. He had no penalties in 2013, which obviously differs just a little bit with Donte Whitner. While appeals appeared to clear Whitner on his penalties, he still suffered the penalties. And when you make it publicly known that you want to change your name to Hitner, it's safe to say you aren't going to get the benefit of the doubt too often.
The 49ers were generally able to overcome Whitner's penalties, but it doesn't make life any easier. Having clean tacklers that are not drawing the ire of officials is a good thing.
Late addition: The 49ers released this Vine of Bethea signing his contract.