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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

How will the 49ers address thin safety position?

Marc Adams
Nov 25, 2023 at 2:49 PM--

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San Francisco 49ers safety George Odum suffered a torn biceps injury in the team's blowout win over the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving night. Odum is one of the top special teamers in the NFL. Replacing him on special teams is one thing, but replacing him at safety is another issue, as the 49ers are currently a little too thin at the position. Odum is the second safety in less than one week to be lost—potentially for the season. Talanoa Hufanga tore his right ACL and will miss the rest of the season.

Rookie safety Ji'Ayir Brown took over Hufanga's starting safety spot and has played well so far. But now the 49ers need to find another safety to take Odum's spot. Will it be a young player with potential? Will it be a veteran player coaches can count on, if need be? Here are some potential names to watch for when it comes to any additions at safety:

Tayler Hawkins

Tayler Hawkins is the only safety currently on the 49ers practice squad. So it would seem that he would be the most likely addition to the active roster. Hawkins, a 2022 undrafted free agent out of San Diego State, spent his entire rookie season on the 49ers' practice squad.

The obvious concern with having Hawkins be the primary backup at safety is if the 49ers were to lose veteran Tashaun Gipson, then you have Hawkins, a second-year player with no experience, and Brown, a rookie with only one start.

If Hawkins is the choice, look for the 49ers to add a veteran to the practice squad, just in case one is needed.

Isaiah Oliver

Moving Isaiah Oliver to safety might be the smartest thing to do. Oliver is already on the active roster and might be a better safety than Nickel Corner anyway. He tackles really well and is fine in coverage against bigger, slower receivers and tight ends. And Oliver has played safety before when he was in Atlanta.

Fans may be disgusted at the thought of Oliver getting back on the field for the 49ers defense, but Oliver has what it takes to be a serviceable safety. And when you consider that the 49ers have activated cornerbacks Samuel Womack and Darrell Luter, Jr. in recent weeks, it could be that Oliver won't be needed at corner anymore. If that is the case, it would free him up to move to safety.

Jaquiski Tartt

49ers fans don't need to be reminded of the last time Jaquiski Tartt was on the field for San Francisco. That, of course, would have been the 2021 NFC Championship Game, in which the 49ers took a 10-point lead over the Los Angeles Rams into the 4th quarter. Tartt infamously dropped a potential interception late in the game that might have protected the lead and sent his team back to the Super Bowl.

The 2015 second-round draft pick out of Samford spent his entire seven seasons with the 49ers. He has not played since the 2021 season. Tartt spent the 2022 offseason with the Philadelphia Eagles but was released before the 2022 regular season began.

Because Tartt hasn't played since 2021, and hasn't been able to find his way onto another roster, he's likely a longshot to be signed by the 49ers.

Tarvarius Moore

Tarvarius Moore was a 2018 third-round draft selection by the 49ers. He started 13 games in his first three seasons with the team but was mostly used as a backup. Moore is most famous for intercepting a Patrick Mahomes pass in Super Bowl LIV.

Moore signed with the Green Bay Packers in the offseason, but suffered an injury that led to his being placed on injured reserve, and then ultimately waived. Moore is currently not with another team.

One fan reached out to Matt Maiocco, of NBC Sports Bay Area, on social media, and asked if Moore might be an option for the 49ers at the position. Maiocco answered, "I wouldn't rule out anything. He had a knee injury in camp, but if he's healthy, he's in play for P-squad."

Dontae Johnson

You knew there was a chance our old friend, Dontae Johnson, might return. Johnson, who turns 32 next week, has been around the league since 2014 and was recently brought in by the team for a workout.

Drafted as a corner, Johnson spent his first four seasons with the 49ers. After bouncing around for a couple of seasons, Johnson returned to the 49ers for another four seasons. He last played in 2022.

Johnson's transaction page is a mile long, with most of his signings, releases, elevations, and such taking place with the 49ers. His last transaction came in December of 2022 when the 49ers placed him on injured reserve.

The upside to Johnson, Moore, or Tartt is that they know the defense, and have played with most of these players. So the adjustment would be minimal. The downside is that these players, like any who are currently available, are unsigned for a reason.

Could the 49ers bring back a familiar face? Might they bring in another veteran safety? Or will they simply stay in-house for Odum's replacement? That remains to be seen, but regardless, they will likely need to sign a safety who is not currently on the team.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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