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90 in 90: Why the 49ers had no choice to re-sign safety Tashaun Gipson

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is S Tashaun Gipson

NFC Championship - San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

When the 49ers re-signed Tashaun Gipson to a one-year deal this offseason, it felt more like a hedge in case the team couldn’t land another safety during free agency. But that underscores what Gipson meant to the Niners defense in 2022.

First and foremost, Gipson was available. He started every game from Week 1 through the NFC Championship, totaling over 1,200 snaps defensively. There were no guessing games as to who would start at safety, which provides the ultimate peace of mind for any defensive coordinator.

When you think about Gipson’s game, your mind instantly goes to his interception total of five. That’s fair, but after re-watching most of the defense from last year, Gipson’s versatility did wonders for the defense and allowed DeMeco Ryans to be aggressive on third downs.

San Francisco could drop Gipson down into the slot or put him out wide in man coverage against a running back, and hold up defensively. There’s immense value in a safety who can play man coverage. If anything, Gipson’s interception total should have been higher had he caught the passes the oppositions quarterback threw to him.

Basic Info

Age: 32

Experience: 11 accrued seasons

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 205 lbs.

Cap Status

Gipson agreed to a one-year deal and re-sign with the Niners in March. Gipson’s cap number for this season will be $2.1 million. Included in his contract is a base salary of $1.17 million and a per-game roster bonus of $680,000, per Over the Cap.

How he can improve in 2023

There was plenty to like about Gipson’s 2022 season. We talked about the interceptions above. He only allowed a completion percentage of 56 percent on 25 targets in his direction. More importantly, Gipson didn’t allow a single touchdown in man coverage. There wasn’t much to complain about as Gipson’s broken tackle rate was at a career-low. As the season went along, Gipson became a better player.

If there was a gripe about Gipson, or the 49ers safety play in general, it’d be that that were too many plays allowed behind them last season. Gipson himself allowed completions of 37, 40, 24, and 27 a year ago. The Chiefs made sure to isolate Gipson down the field.

We’ll see how new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks uses Gipson, but the explosive plays need to be cut in half, at minimum, in 2023.

What to expect in 2023

I undervalued what Gipson brought to the 49ers last season. And that’s without accounting for the intangibles such as leadership and showing Talanoa Hufanga how to be a professional.

Gipson will be great for rookie safety Ji’Ayir Brown. In an ideal world, Wilks can use all three safeties on the field at the same time during obvious passing downs. It’ll be interesting to see whether Gipson loses snaps to Brown as the season goes along. But if he plays as he did a year ago, that won’t be an issue.

Gipson has a knack for finding the football. You cannot fake his instincts. Another five interception season might be out of the cards, but with how the defensive line gets pressure, Gipson will be presented ample opportunities to make plays on the ball at safety.

Gipson should be better in Wilks’s defense even if his interception total doesn’t reflect what he put up a season ago.