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Antoine Bethea injury described as torn pectoral, not shoulder injury, per Matt Barrows

Antoine Bethea is reportedly dealing with a torn pectoral muscle. It opens the door to a variety of possibilities in the coming year.

The San Francisco 49ers placed Antoine Bethea on injured reserve Friday afternoon to make room for wide receiver Jerome Simpson. Bethea suffered the injury in Thursday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks. It was originally described as a shoulder injury, but Matt Barrows is reporting it is a torn pectoral muscle.

Bethea will have surgery and begin his rehab process, but his future with the 49ers will be something to track next offseason. Last year, Bethea signed a four-year deal with the 49ers. He will earn $4.5 million in 2016, and $5.25 million in 2017. The 49ers will likely insert Jaquiski Tartt at strong safety next to Eric Reid. That would appear to give the 49ers nine more games to evaluate what he brings to the table.

If Tartt proves capable of starting, the team could decide to release Bethea sometime next year. His rehab process will be determined in part by how significant the tear is. A grade one or two tear is something from which he can definitely come back, while a grade three tear could prove career-threatening. Whatever the case, depending on his health next spring and summer, the team could very well elect to release him. He would have a dead money hit of $2.5 million, or split $1.25 million per year if it is a post-June 1 hit.

We'll have to wait and see how his rehab process goes, and how Jaquiski Tartt performs, but a potential release has to be on our radar. He was voted team MVP a year ago, but for NFL players over 30, things can change in an instant.