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What are the 49ers’ options at strong safety next season?

It looks like Jaquiski Tartt’s days in San Francisco could come to an end.

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

It’s going to be a busy offseason for the San Francisco 49ers. General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will have some tough decisions to make with up to 40 players up for free agency and the salary cap expected to be around $180 million.

The secondary will be one area of focus for the Niners. They have nine players who could hit the open market, including starting strong safety Jaquiski Tartt.

Tartt earned $6.5 million for the 2020 campaign but only suited up for seven contests. The 28-year-old had seven tackles, one pick, and one pass defended last season. Opposing quarterbacks completed 62.5% of their passes when targeting Tartt and averaged 13.6 yards per completion. Pro Football Focus gave Tartt a 65.3 overall grade for 2020.

Injuries have plagued the 28-year-old’s six years with the team. Tartt has missed 28 games over the past four seasons and looks like he will be too rich for San Francisco’s blood. The good news is that the Niners do already have some options available to them.

Marcell Harris — an exclusive rights free agent — started four games for the 49ers last season. The 26-year-old has been with the team since 2018, playing in 37 games over that time.

Opposing quarterbacks had a 137.5 rating when throwing at Harris in 2020, who gave up 234 yards and two touchdowns in coverage. The shorthanded San Francisco defense tried Harris at linebacker due to injuries, and he seemed more comfortable in that role.

Tavarius Moore, who played corner in college, was selected in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft and hasn’t missed a game in three seasons. The 24-year-old has a cap hit of $1.1 million for 2021.

Moore played well against the run last season but didn’t fare as well in coverage. He had a 56.1 coverage grade from PFF, with quarterbacks completing 75% of the passes thrown in his direction.

Unless Tartt agrees to a very team-friendly one-year deal, it looks like Lynch and co. will bring in another option.

Here are some of the free agent strong safeties that could be available this offseason:

Kareem Jackson (Broncos) *club option
Shawn Williams (Bengals)
Bradley McDougald (Jets)
Duron Harmen (Lions)
Daniel Sorenson (Chiefs)
Keanu Neal (Falcons)
Karl Joseph (Browns)

San Francisco could also use one of its draft picks on safety who could come in and challenge for a starting role.

Here are the top 10 safeties available according to Alex Eisen.

  1. Paris Ford – Pittsburgh
  2. Jevon Holland- Oregon
  3. Andre Cisco – Syracuse
  4. Trevon Moehrig – TCU
  5. Bubba Bolden – Miami
  6. Caden Sterns – Texas
  7. Ar’Darius Washington – TCU
  8. Richard LeCounte – Georgia
  9. Kolby Harvell-Peel – Oklahoma State
  10. Reed Blankenship -Middle Tennessee

Who do you think will end up being the 49ers starting strong safety next season? Is there a particular prospect you would prefer Lynch targets in the middle rounds?