49ers sign Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, did they even need him?

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Chicago Bears (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images)
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix #21 of the Chicago Bears (Photo by Jack Thomas/Getty Images) /

The help alleviate a possible long-term loss of Jaquiski Tartt, the 49ers added former first-round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but was there a pressing need?

It’s not every day a team can make transactions with two different former first-round NFL Draft picks, but that’s what the San Francisco 49ers experienced on Aug. 11.

First, the Niners released wide receiver Kevin White, who was a long shot to make the 53-man roster anyway, to make room for linebacker Donald Payne.

Later in the day, ESPN’s Adam Schefter shared the information San Francisco was inking another former first-round pick, veteran safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix:

This move, while not yet confirmed by the 49ers and without a corresponding transaction for the offseason roster, comes in the wake of presumed starting safety Jaquiski Tartt landing on the physically unable-to-perform list earlier this week with the same toe injury that prematurely ended his 2020 campaign.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Tuesday there was no timetable for Tartt’s return, and this latest transaction suggests Tartt could miss an awfully extensive period of time.

Dix, 28 years old, was originally drafted by the Green Bay Packers in Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft and spent four-plus years there as a full-time starter before being moved via trade to the Washington Football Team in 2018.

He then spent 2019 with the Chicago Bears before failing to make the Dallas Cowboys’ 53-man roster in 2020.

Did the 49ers even need to sign Ha Ha Clinton-Dix?

On the surface, the Niners probably didn’t need to make this transaction.

Earlier this offseason, even amid signing Tartt to a one-year deal, San Francisco stockpiled its safety depth by adding two veterans, Tavon Wilson and Tony Jefferson, while also using a fifth-round draft pick on former USC safety Talanoa Hufanga.

Wilson and Jefferson have been standing out during training camp for all the right reasons. And even though the 49ers lost another potential reserve in the defensive backfield, Tarvarius Moore, to an ACL tear, it appeared as if the team was set with would-be fill-ins for Tartt if he proves to be unable to begin the regular season.

Read More: Jaquiski Tartt injury history, projected outlook for 2021

Yet the transaction suggests Shanahan and Co. aren’t totally happy with the depth as it stands now.

For starters, Tartt’s injury could potentially endanger his season. Even with no timetable for return, the fact the Niners acted quickly to fill the void with a starting-caliber option suggests Tartt might not suit up at all this year. That remains an open-ended question.

Another X-factor is Jefferson, who missed all of 2020 after suffering an ACL tear in 2019. Jefferson hasn’t been featured on too many practice reports, so make of that what you will. But grabbing Clinton-Dix could be an indication of San Francisco not being overly bullish on Jefferson’s ability to contribute.

And despite his impressive camp thus far, it’s important to note Hufanga is still a rookie.

From that vantage point, Clinton-Dix makes some sense. Especially considering the one-time Pro Bowler has experience at both the strong and free safety spots, lending to the idea he could also support the presumed starter at the back end of the defense, Jimmie Ward.

Clinton-Dix still faces a climb to make the 53-man roster, especially without the terms of the deal made public just yet.

But at least the 49ers have another option in the mix, which will be needed if Tartt indeed misses a lot of time.

Next. 49ers' 15 best free-agent acquisitions of all time. dark