Thus far, we've taken a look at the hugely disappointing tight end position, the somewhat disappointing quarterback position and the potentially depressing running back situation (provided we're forced to see Frank Gore don a different uniform in 2015) so why not, instead, take a look at a pretty solid position? There's room for a little optimism, right?
When the San Francisco 49ers took LSU safety Eric Reid with the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, there were quite a few people here at Niners Nation who were initially upset with the pick. Most folks knew the 49ers would likely be pursuing a safety given Dashon Goldson got a boatload of cash from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but as is often the case with the NFL Draft, folks around here got attached to one or two guys.
Reid was not one of those guys, but he's worked out nonetheless. He does have one huge concern: concussions are kind of happening a lot at this point. No game is worth continued head injuries, and I don't know if Reid needs to change up his technique or what but he's already had multiple concussions at the NFL level and that's a huge concern going forward.
Eric Reid - 15 games, 42 tackles, 3 interceptions, 7 passes defensed
We've already talked a bit about Reid and I gotta say, I'm a big fan of his. Fortunately, his injury concerns have only forced him out of one game in his two seasons with the team. He was a Pro Bowler last season and I didn't think he lost a step at all this past year. Reid is a sure-tackler, a hard-hitter and I haven't noticed him struggle against the pass in any situation for any extended period of time.
Earlier in the season, we actually had a post about why we weren't hearing much about Reid over the course of the year -- it's because he was doing his job. He hasn't made some of the crazy plays that Goldson made here and there, but he's also not tackling and injuring his teammates and drawing stupid penalties, either. Reid should hold this position for a long while.
Antoine Bethea - 16 games, 86 tackles, 1 sack, 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 10 passes defensed
The signing of Antoine Bethea could not have been better. Donte Whitner was a huge surprise for 49ers fans, his level of play was much higher than anticipated. But he used that play to land a big deal, and the 49ers turned to Bethea. They're somewhat similar, though Whitner hits harder and Bethea is much better in coverage. Bethea went on to turn in a Pro Bowl season, not looking at all like he's nearing the end of his career.
Bethea is signed with the 49ers through the 2017 season and while it's not out of the realm of possibility he slows down by that time, I don't think there's any reason to not be excited for what he can bring to the table this coming season. He's fast, he's great against the pass and he's a sure-tackler. He even notched his first-ever pick six this past season. Needless to say, he's locked in.
Craig Dahl - 16 games, 23 tackles, 1 interception, 2 passes defensed
I've never been shy about hating the Craig Dahl signing, and I think when he's found his way onto the field he hasn't looked great, but that's probably my bias pointing out a couple blown plays or two. He definitely has blown coverage, and that sucks, but given that I rarely noticed him and he didn't take an insignificant amount of snaps probably means he did better than I'd like to give him credit for.
The big thing to consider with Dahl is that he's got a base salary of $1.4 million next season and we've recently pointed him out as a potential cap casualty. I'm not sure if that's likely or not, but if the 49ers think they can find a better backup for not much more, or a comparable one for cheaper, he could be on his way out.
L.J. McCray - 14 games, 9 tackles
I suppose I need to write up McCray because he's the only other real safety on the team. He made the team as a rookie and had a couple bad penalties on special teams, which I thought might put him in danger but he ended up performing quite well on that unit going forward. I don't know if the 49ers consider him an actual backup or not, but I put him here as opposed to the forthcoming special teams article, where you will find Bubba Ventrone.
The 49ers are set at the safety position, as far as starters go. Reid has a bright future in the NFL provided there are no more concussion issues, and Bethea is good for a few more seasons before he elects to hang up the cleats. There is absolutely no concern at the position in that regard, a rarity on the current 49ers roster. There should, however, be some discussion about backups. The 49ers have Dahl, and then not much else but I suppose they have some cornerbacks they like who could step in if need be, like Jimmie Ward if he's not busy in nickel duties.
Whatever the case, here's a very quick look at the free agent safeties:
Devin McCourty (New England Patriots)
Tashaun Gipson (Cleveland Browns -- RFA)
Rodney McLeod (St. Louis Rams)
Rahim Moore (Denver Broncos)
Will Hill (Baltimore Ravens -- RFA)
Da'Norris Searcy (Buffalo Bills)
Louis Delmas (Miami Dolphins)
Mike Adams (Indianapolis Colts)
Dwight Lowery (Atlanta Falcons)
LaRon Landry (Indianapolis Colts)
Antrel Rolle (New York Giants)
Darian Stewart (Baltimore Ravens)
Sergio Brown (Indianapolis Colts)
Nate Allen (Philadelphia Eagles)
In a conference call on Monday, Mike Mayock noted that the draft was rather thin at the quarterback and safety position, noting that the rest of the pool was solid. I'm inclined to agree and there's not a lot of meat on the bones here when it comes to safeties. Still, here's a link to Mocking The Draft's Dan Kadar's safety rankings from early December:
|1. Landon Collins | 6'0, 222 pounds | S | Alabama *|
|2. Cody Prewitt | 6'2, 217 pounds | S | Ole Miss|
|3. Gerod Holliman | 6'2, 213 pounds | S | Louisville **|
|4. Karl Joseph | 5'10, 196 pounds | S | West Virginia*|
|5. Anthony Harris | 6'1, 190 pounds | S | Virginia|
|6. Durell Eskridge | 6'3, 207 pounds | S | Syracuse *|
|7. Derron Smith | 5'11, 197 pounds | S | Fresno State|
|8. Jalen Mills | 6'0, 194 pounds | S | LSU *|
|9. Jermaine Whitehead | 5'11, 193 pounds | S | Auburn|
|10. Kurtis Drummond | 6'1, 202 pounds | S | Michigan State|
|11. Damarious Randall | 5'11, 190 pounds | S | Arizona State|
|12. Clayton Geathers | 6'2, 208 pounds | S | Central Florida|
|13. Jordan Richards | 5'11, 210 pounds | S | Stanford|
|14. Isaiah Johnson | 6'2, 205 pounds | S | Georgia Tech|
|15. Adrian Amos | 6'0, 209 pounds | S | Penn State|
|16. Kyshoen Jarrett | 5'11, 200 pounds | S | Virginia Tech|