Editor’s note: Insider Matt Maiocco will be providing position-by-position breakdowns each day leading up to 49ers training camp, which opens with their first full-squad practice on Aug. 1.
Who they have: Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, L.J. McCray, Craig Dahl, Jermaine Whitehead
Who they lost: Bubba Ventrone
Looking back: The 49ers lost Pro Bowl safety Donte Whitner in free agency but might have actually improved at strong safety with the signing of Bethea. After all, Bethea was voted as the winner of the Bill Walsh Award as the 49ers’ MVP. Reid did not make as many plays as he did during his Pro Bowl rookie season, but he was still solid with three interceptions and seven passes broken up. Ward re-fractured his foot, which limited him to eight games as a rookie, including a particularly rough night matched against Chicago receiver Brandon Marshall.
Overall outlook: The 49ers are loaded at safety. And that should come as no surprise. After all, in the past three offseasons, the 49ers invested two first-round picks (Reid and Ward), a big-money contract (Bethea) and a second-round pick (Tartt) on the position. The 49ers have plenty of talent and depth at the starting and backup positions.
Camp competition: Bethea and Reid are set as the starters. Those spots are not in question. After that, there should be strong competition. Ward won the job as the nickel back as a rookie. He will be pushed for that spot by a good crop of cornerbacks. The safety positions are virtually interchangeable. Dahl was the No. 3 safety last year. This season, Dahl, Ward and Tartt will be fighting for that role. The final spot on the 53-man roster could come down to Dahl and McCray, a second-year special-teams player the 49ers believe was a “find” as an undrafted free agent from Catawba College, Jim Tomsula’s alma mater.
Bottom line: The 49ers are set up to be strong at this position today and in the future. Reid, who won academic awards at LSU, has sustained three concussions in his first two NFL seasons. That’s an obvious concern. Ward’s foot condition is another long-term worry. Perhaps those issues are why the 49ers felt compelled to select Tartt and eschew selecting a player at a position of greater need. The young players, including McCray, have a tremendous role model from whom to learn. Bethea brings as much to the 49ers off the field as on the field.