San Francisco 49ers: Possible Cap Casualties in 2016
By Peter Panacy
Safety Antoine Bethea
Releasing a player like safety Antoine Bethea would remove a bona fide leader from the 49ers locker room, which may be reason enough San Francisco doesn’t do it.
But, like the defensive line, the Niners have considerable depth at the safety position with players like Eric Reid, Jaquiski Tartt and Jimmie Ward filling out the roster.
Bethea was lost for the year due to a pectoral injury following Week 7 but will likely be at 100 percent in time for the upcoming season. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be in line for a roster spot given San Francisco’s depth.
A lot of this has to do with Tartt’s emergence in a starting role. Yes, Tartt had his issues in coverage — rookie defensive backs typically do — but the Niners clearly envision long-term plans for him.
Ward will likely hold onto his nickel corner role in 2016 — a position at which he thrived during his second season. He finished with a plus-3.0 pass-coverage grade, per Pro Football Focus. Still, Ward’s natural position is at safety.
Bethea’s future will hinge on whether or not the 49ers want to use Tartt and/or Ward in more of a traditional safety role or, as in the case with Tartt before Bethea’s injury, place him in various packages — inside linebacker with Tartt.
Yet the 49ers could end up saving $9.275 million over the next two seasons if Bethea is cut.
Next: LB Ahmad Brooks