Every day leading up to the start of training camp set for July 28, 49ers.com will assess each position group on the roster as we get closer to the season. In this installment, we will address the safety position and its depth heading into the 2020 season.
The 49ers are hoping for repeat production out of starting safeties Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt in 2020. Health hindered the duo last season, however the unit saw an increase in production when both were on the field together. Ward was set to hit free agency this offseason, however the 49ers worked out a contract extension to keep the free safety in San Francisco another three years. With another season together for San Francisco's safety tandem, can Tartt and Ward avoid the injury bug in 2020? How dependable is the depth behind the two? Can a new addition unseat a veteran for a primary reserve role?
While much praise goes to the 49ers vaunted defensive line, San Francisco's secondary also deserves credit for the team's No. 1 ranked pass defense. Tartt and Ward were key pieces of the 49ers final line of defense that succeeded in limiting production downfield, allowing a league-low 10 completions on passes traveling 20 yards or more, according to Pro Football Focus.
San Francisco's starting defensive backs have a relationship dating back to high school, which is apparent in the duo's chemistry and communication. Tartt and Ward were safeties for Davidson High School's football team in Mobile, Ala., where their familiarity helped both become effective on the field.
Tartt's absence was felt when he missed the final four games of the season after suffering a rib injury in Week 13. The 49ers were first in the league with a 35 percent success passing rate through the first 13 weeks of the season. With Tartt out, that rate dropped to 50 percent, ranked 25th in the league.
Both safeties were on hand for the 49ers postseason run and were vital to the team's defensive success last season.
Jimmie Ward: After bouncing around the 49ers secondary, Ward appears to have found a home at free safety. Ward is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, despite missing the first three games of the season with a dislocated finger. He managed to finish the year appearing in 16 games (postseason included) and registered 83 total tackles, eight passes defended, a sack and two forced fumbles, including one in Super Bowl LIV.
Ward finished the season ranked sixth among qualifying free safeties in PFF grades. He also landed as an honorable mention on ESPN's list of top 10 safeties heading into the 2020 season. "Smooth in coverage. Watch him against the Rams last year. He was dominant. He can play all four DB spots and is great in the slot." — NFL coordinator.
Jaquiski Tartt: San Francisco's starting strong safety appeared in 12 games and notched 48 total tackles, two passes defended, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, 0.5 sacks and a quarterback hit. He held opposing quarterbacks to a 43.5 percent completion percentage last season, allowing just 10 receptions on 23 targets last season.
Tarvarius Moore: The 49ers moved Moore back to his natural position at safety last offseason after spending time at cornerback in 2018. Moore started the first three games of 2019 in place of Ward, who made a strong case for the now-third year defensive back to earn a larger role with the 49ers. He also registered an interception in Super Bowl LIV. Prior to Ward's contract extension, he endorsed Moore as the 49ers "best bet" as a would-be replacement at free safety.
Marcell Harris: Harris filled in for Tartt while the 49ers starting strong safety was out for four games with a rib injury. One of his highlight moments came a few plays after stepping in for Tartt, making a crucial forced fumble against Lamar Jackson, Jackson's first fumble of the 2019 season.
D.J. Reed Jr.: In a reserve role to Ward and K'Waun Williams, Reed previously held reserve roles at nickel corner and free safety. His role will be on hold this season after announcing on his Twitter account that he suffered a torn pectoral during an offseason workout. It is likely Reed will be out for an extended period of time.
Chris Edwards: The 49ers signed former Canadian Football League standout, Edwards, to a reserve/futures contract back in January. As a member of the British Columbia Lions, Edwards appeared in all 18 regular-season games and recorded 50 tackles, an interception and a sack. Prior to his time with the Lions, Edwards spent two seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos, where he registered 62 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Edwards joined the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2016 before being waived later that summer.
Derrick Kindred: The 49ers signed the former Cleveland Browns defensive back to a reserve/future contract in January of 2020. The safety was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Browns out of TCU. In Cleveland, Kindred appeared in 42 games (17 starts) and registered 148 tackles and two interceptions while playing both safety positions. Kindred spent time with the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets last year before being released at the start the season.
Jared Mayden: The 49ers signed the former Alabama safety following the 2020 draft. Mayden played in 12 games (11 starts) and notched four interceptions, totaling 54 yards on the returns, leading the Crimson Tide defense and tying for second in the SEC. He also recorded 59 tackles, three pass breakups and two quarterback hurries. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah ranked Mayden as his No. 2 undrafted free agent.