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49ers bubble watch: Safeties need depth

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The San Francisco 49ers have questions at almost every position while they work to figure out their 53-man roster. We’ll break down the bubble watch for each one. Today, we look at the safeties.

The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up minicamp last week, and return for training camp in just over five weeks. The roster appears to be just about set, so with that in mind, it is time to re-visit the bubble watch. The offseason workout program does not lock in most roster spots, and that is even more the case this season with a new coaching staff and front office.

Over the next two weeks, we’re going to take a look at each position, and what the bubble watch looks like. As we’ve done for many years now, the bubble watch breaks down to lock, strong bubble, weak bubble, and longshot. For some positions, we'll have multiple players listed at strong bubble, even though not all are likely to make the roster. But the idea is that they both stand a good shot, even if it is just one of them. Additionally, this does not reflect whether or not a player will be traded. Trades can and probably will happen during training camp, but the positioning on this focuses on whether or not they’d be cut.

We move on to the safeties.

Lock: Jimmie Ward, Eric Reid
Strong Bubble: Jaquiski Tartt, Don Jones
Weak Bubble: Lorenzo Jerome, Chanceller James, Vinnie Sunseri
Longshot: None

The 49ers are making a significant change at safety, moving Eric Reid from free safety to strong safety, and moving Jimmie Ward from cornerback to free safety. Jaquiski Tartt will compete with Reid for that starting role, but it seems likely that Reid will hang on to a starting job.

Tartt’s an interesting one to consider. The team spent a second round pick on him, and he has rotated in and out as injuries have claimed players on the back end of the defense. Given the potentially more attacking nature of this defense, will he develop into a rotational safety/linebacker hybrid? Teams are getting more creative with using these tweener players, and this could be where Tartt finds a role. He is entering year three of his rookie contract, so it is a critical time as the team considers its long-term options with him.

I included Don Jones in the strong bubble because I expect to see him as a core special teamer. The big question becomes whether one or both of the two UDFAs, Lorenzo Jerome and Chanceller James are able to make a quick enough impact to secure a roster spot. The team lacks significant depth, so odds are pretty good at least one of them makes the roster. Jerome has gotten solid press, but training camp will be a wide open competition.