We're back for the second round of depth chart reviews following the bulk of free agency. Yesterday we took a look at the quarterback position. Today, we move to the other side of the field and look at the safety position. We've assessed the safety position in a few ways:
1. Salary cap breakdown
2. 2013 Roster review
3. Free agency options
4. College safety rankings
Ten days ago, the San Francisco 49ers signed safety Antoine Bethea to a 4-year, $22 million contract. I've seen a lot of national commentary about the 49ers moves, and plenty of "experts" have pointed to the idea that Bethea's contract is similar enough to Whitner's that this "downgrade" leads to a poor free agency grade.
While Bethea isn't making chump change, we've already seen the differences in the contract, and why it's actually a decent contract. Additionally, we've seen reasons on film and anecdotally for why Bethea is not exactly a downgrade form Whitner. He is a year older, but in reality, he brings a lot of similarities to the 49ers defense. And he doesn't get penalties, so that's a plus!
The finances of the deal make one thing clear: the 49ers have flexibility to consider additional safety options in the draft. The 49ers could elect to go into the 2014 season with their current safety crew, and probably not be the worse for wear. At the same time, if the 49ers like a safety in this year's draft, they are not hamstrung to the point where they can't make that move. While I would not be surprised to see the 49ers make an aggressive trade up in the first round, I would expect it to be for a cornerback or wide receiver, and not a safety. However, if the talent is there at some point, a safety could still join this team on day two.
49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell sat down with 49ers.com to discuss Bethea and the rest of the 49ers secondary (VIDEO). He talked about how Bethea and Reid could play interchangeably. He said Bethea would start at strong safety, but there would be some flexibility at the position. The 49ers bring back C.J. Spillman and Craig Dahl. Both work primarily as special teamers, but I do wonder if we ever see C.J. Spillman get more playing time. He's gotten some opportunities in the past, but he's never really been able to take full advantage of them. If the 49ers add another safety in the draft, it makes it even less likely.
At this point, how do you expect the 49ers to approach the safety position? We'll have more rankings in the coming weeks, but for now, here are the consensus draft rankings for strong safeties and free safeties, via Poldarn's consensus big board.
1. Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
2. Calvin Pryor, SS, Louisville
3. Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois
4. Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State
5. Terrence Brooks, FS, Florida State
6. Dion Bailey, FS, USC
7. Ed Reynolds, FS, Stanford
8. Ahmad Dixon, SS, Baylor
9. Craig Loston, SS, LSU
10. Vinnie Sunseri, SS, Alabama
11. Marqueston Huff, FS, Wyoming
12. Dontae Johnson, FS, NC State
13. Jonathan Dowling, FS, Western Kentucky
14. Kenny Ladler, FS, Vanderbilt
15. Hakeem Smith, SS, Louisville
16. Tre Boston, FS, North Caroloina
17. Alden Darby, SS, Arizona State
18. Brock Vereen, SS, Minnesota
19. Nat Berhe, SS, San Diego State
20. Isaiah Lewis, SS, Michigan State
21. C.J. Barnett, SS, Ohio State
22. Ty Zimmerman, FS, Kansas State
23. Sean Parker, SS, Washington
24. Dezmen Southward, SS, Wisconsin
25. Nickoe Whitley, FS, Mississippi State
26. Christian Bryant, FS, Ohio State
27. Daniel Sorensen, SS, Brigham Young
28. Darwin Cook, SS, West Virginia