The San Francisco 49ers have been kind of a mess at the safety position, despite having three guys that I think we could all largely agree are above average. Jimmie Ward, Eric Reid and Jaquiski Tartt have all looked great at times, but the 49ers have had to deal with injuries and the desire to get all three players on the field at once.
That desire culminated in the team switching Reid from strong safety to weakside linebacker, promoting Tartt to starter at the former position while Ward had free safety locked down. That was after the 49ers moved Ward to that spot full time this offseason, shifting Reid from there to strong safety, where he always seemed better-suited.
But now Ward is on injured reserve, for the third time in four seasons for the 49ers. That means they are now looking at moving Reid back to strong safety, and Tartt over to free safety.
It’s not over for Ward and Reid, as far as I’m concerned. Ward is under contract through next season and he’ll get an opportunity to come back in the offseason and earn a spot. Reid can still show his stuff in eight games this season and earn a new deal with the 49ers, too.
But it’s certainly possible that neither Ward nor Reid are with the 49ers next season. The only thing that really is certain is that Tartt will be, and that he’s starting-caliber.
Therefore, I think the 49ers should play Tartt not where they need him due to injury this year, I think they should play him where they want him next year. Tartt is more suited for strong safety, at least in my opinion, so I don’t see the value in playing him at free safety for the next eight games.
I’d rather see Tartt playing strong safety, never coming off the field, and Reid moved back to free safety — or even sticking at linebacker, with Adrian Colbert starting the free safety spot — so the 49ers know what they have in him going forward. I think Tartt has the ability to be a Pro Bowler at strong safety, so that’s where he should be.