Eric Reid was among the 49ers’ best defenders in 2017. Reid was asked by first-time defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to switch to strong safety as part of the team’s offseason transition to a 4-3 defense under coach Kyle Shanahan. Reid’s impact on the field at his new position was immediate after beginning his career as a free safety.

Kyle Posey, who has Reid 10th overall in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 rankings on strong safeties, broke down his 2017 season:

Reid excelled in the box. He was aggressive against the run and didn’t miss too many tackles. He had no problem going out wide or playing in slot coverage, either. Look for the impending free agent to have a big impact for whoever he plays for.

The 49ers’ first-round pick in 2013 wrapped up the year with 52 tackles, 14 assists, four pass breakups and two interceptions in 12 starts. Perhaps more impressive than Reid’s campaign was Jaquiski Tartt’s, who was made the starting strong safety after Reid went down with a knee injury Week 2 in Seattle.

Tartt, a second-round pick in 2015, shined in Reid’s absence. He played so well that Reid was tried at linebacker when healthy. Here’s Posey’s take on Tartt’s season:

Jaquiski Tartt is a player. It’s a shame he only played nine games. When Tartt was stationed in the box, he could avoid blockers or bob and weave through traffic to make stops near the line of scrimmage. He was most impressive in coverage and didn’t struggle against anyone he faced. He also flashed the recovery skills of a corner. Tartt will only get better the more he plays. If you’re a football fan, you should want him healthy.

Tartt racked up 37 tackles, 17 assists, three pass breakups and an interception in just eight games. His season was cut short after suffering a broken forearm against the Cardinals in Week 9, but the limited sample size was enough to propel Tartt to third overall in Bleacher Report’s NFL1000. Doug Farrar, the project’s lead scout, also had this to say about Tartt:

Tartt missed nearly half the season with a broken forearm, but when he was in the lineup, he was a valuable part of the 49ers defense. He had the range to transition from intermediate to deep coverage, and he was strong enough to face up against the run. The third-year man from Samford is still getting his advanced coverage techniques together, but he’s got all the range you’d want in a versatile safety.

Tartt’s emergence came at a good time for general manager John Lynch with Reid slated for free agency this offseason. There’s a good chance the 49ers allow Reid to test the open market. And considering his ongoing protest against racial injustice during the national anthem, the list of suitors may not be as long as it should be for a player of Reid’s caliber. A return to the 49ers may still be possible, although it’s unlikely he’d be guaranteed a starting spot with Tartt still around.

Tartt is also a candidate for a contract extension for the first time this offseason as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

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