49ers still have safety questions in wake of Tavon Wilson signing

Indianapolis Colts defensive back Tavon Wilson (31) Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis Colts defensive back Tavon Wilson (31) Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers inked veteran defensive back Tavon Wilson to help at safety, but this position remains a question mark heading towards the NFL Draft.

The San Francisco 49ers secondary might be the biggest questionable unit heading into 2021 despite general manager John Lynch making some efforts to revamp and overhaul this group.

Lynch’s latest move was to bring aboard veteran safety Tavon Wilson on a one-year deal, as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Monday.

Earlier, Lynch and the Niners retained some of their own players who were scheduled to hit the open market, namely cornerbacks Jason Verrett, Emmanuel Moseley and Dontae Johnson. Wilson’s presence is at least expected to alleviate the departure of San Francisco’s former starting strong safety, Jaquiski Tartt, who is also returning, according to recent reports.

Wilson, who just turned 31 years old, broke into the league as a second-round NFL Draft pick of the New England Patriots back in 2012. He primarily worked as a reserve and special teams contributor his first four seasons with the Pats before joining the Detroit Lions in 2016 where he spent the next four years of his career. He then inked a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts in 2020.

Tavon Wilson Defense & Fumbles Table
4 yr4 yrDET563934609145.027821563156
4 yr4 yrNWE5445161110020.079601912
1 yr1 yrIND1520001010.02623320

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 3/22/2021.

Wilson has the starting-caliber experience, which is good. And San Francisco could use additional veterans within the secondary.

But to suggest he’s going to be a clear-cut starter is a bit too premature. As such, the 49ers’ situation at strong safety is anything but determined.

49ers still have unknowns at strong safety despite adding Tavon Wilson

Wilson will join the competition to back up Tartt, facing off in training camp and the hopeful preseason against returning Niners candidates, Marcell Harris and Tarvarius Moore.

Moore and Harris were both used extensively the last few seasons relieving Tartt when he’d be out with one of the numerous injuries he struggled with during his San Francisco tenure. And while both Moore and Harris have had a number of big-impact plays, they have also been inconsistent with onfield play, particularly in pass defense.

With the 49ers altering their safeties to be more interchangeable, getting a quality pass-coverage player is a must.

Pro Football Focus gave Wilson a solid 64.2 pass-coverage grade on 150 coverage snaps last season, so that’s a small bonus. But Wilson hasn’t generally been tasked with serving as a full-time defensive back, rather in that primary reserve and special teams role aside from the two seasons, 2016 and 2019, when he was asked to start full time.

It’s possible the Niners are hoping to get some quality play from him as a starter, provided Tartt deals with another injury. Yet given Wilson’s age and the short-term nature of his contract, it’s more likely Wilson is being looked as little more than a competition piece for both Moore and Harris and, at best, a stopgap option until San Francisco can invest more assets at this position in the coming years.

Simply put, Wilson adds to the competition at the position this offseason. And with Tartt’s lengthy injury history, including missing all but seven games last year with a toe injury, getting some depth is important.

Still, the reserve position itself remains up in the air and will likely be settled in training camp.

Next. 49ers 7-round mock NFL Draft after first wave of free agency. dark