49ers roster 2021: Jaquiski Tartt needs to stay healthy

Jaquiski Tartt #29 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Jaquiski Tartt #29 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The 49ers are better, defensively, when Jaquiski Tartt is on the field, but injuries have limited his impact. Back on a one-year deal, his health is vital.

When veteran safety Jaquiski Tartt suffered a season-ending turf-toe injury late in 2020, many thought that would be the end of his tenure with the San Francisco 49ers.

Turns out those predictions were incorrect, as the Niners brought Tartt back on a one-year deal despite the decreased salary cap and a slew of other free agents the team wanted to re-sign.

It makes sense why Tartt wanted to return, essentially on a team-friendly short-term deal. After all, Tartt’s latest injury is one of just many he’s suffered with San Francisco over the past four years.

Since 2017, Tartt has played in 36 of a possible 64 regular-season games, landing on season-ending injured reserve in three of those four seasons.

Jaquiski Tartt Defense & Fumbles Table

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Generated 7/14/2021.

Tartt makes the defense better, and there shouldn’t be much questioning that. All one needs to do is take a look at how his two primary backups the last three years, Marcell Harris and Tarvarius Moore, fared in Tartt’s absence, and it’s pretty easy to conclude why the 49ers preferred to have Tartt out there instead of the other options.

Potentially why they re-signed him, too.

Being available for just over half the regular-season games on the schedule isn’t a good look, though. And while no one should necessarily call the 29-year-old Tartt out for suffering those injuries and being absent, it does have to factor into the Niners’ immediate and long-term plans.

Let’s take a look at what’s potentially on tap for Tartt this upcoming season.

Why Jaquiski Tartt improves with 49ers in 2021

2019, the last year when Tartt was (mostly) healthy, might have been his best year as a pro. Pro Football Focus awarded the strong safety with a 66.4 overall grade, which has been consistent with his other years under head coach Kyle Shanahan, including his 65.3 mark last season over seven games.

But Tartt does a lot of things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, such as bumping would-be pass-catchers off their routes down by the line of scrimmage or by acting as an over-the-top cover guy to support a cornerback in coverage.

These were issues both Harris and Moore struggled with, and when they were forced to be on the field a lot the last two years, Tartt’s absence was felt.

So it’s a pretty simple conclusion for Tartt’s would-be improvement: stay healthy.

Why Jaquiski Tartt regresses with 49ers in 2021

If staying healthy is the one way by which Tartt improves this season, a would-be regression would almost certainly be tabbed to injury.

And while it’s nearly impossible to predict whether or not Tartt will suffer yet another setback, the best predictor of future actions is past activity, and the past hasn’t been too kind to Tartt on the injury front.

At 29 years old, there’s also the increased risk of his inevitable decline in playing abilities. True, Tartt hasn’t particularly struggled with defensive scheme changes, and he’ll go through another one under first-year defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans.

But at this stage in his career, it might be fair to start eyeing Tartt a bit closer to see if he’s lost a step or two.

Jaquiski Tartt’s projected impact, long-term future with 49ers

Tartt is back on that one-year deal worth $990,000 with almost all of it guaranteed. That means he’s not going anywhere and is essentially a lock to make the 53-man roster this season, provided he’s healthy.

San Francisco has all but written him in as the starting strong safety alongside his former high-school teammate, Jimmie Ward, at free safety. But the 49ers spent effort this offseason to bulk up the depth behind these two injury-prone players.

Good thing, too, because the Niners already lost Moore to an Achilles tear earlier this offseason.

Related Story: Predicting 49ers safety depth after Tarvarius Moore injury

Tavon Wilson, Tony Jefferson and Talanoa Hufanga are three new players, who could potentially push someone like Harris off the regular-season roster in order to back Tartt and Ward up in 2021.

Under Ryans, who is emphasizing a defense that’ll attack more, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Tartt used as a blitz option at times. Yet Tartt is rangy enough to handle single-high duties, too, which might free Ward up for more nickel-type play.

The real question facing Tartt, however, is what his future holds in 2022 and beyond. It’s possible San Francisco doesn’t like what it sees from Jefferson, Wilson and/or Hufanga this year, either prompting yet another new face next year.

Or, potentially, another re-sign deal for Tartt, assuming he’s able to stay on the field.

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