SANTA CLARA — Talanoa Hufanga may need a new wing to form the 49ers’ next safety tandem.
Tashaun Gipson, a veteran regular who arrived just before last season, is out of contract for 2023.
So does Jimmie Ward, who made no secret of his disdain last season as he returned to the nickel and lost his free bouncer job to Gipson while injured.
Also scheduled for free agency is Tarvarius Moore, a once promising safety who has evolved into a special teams ace.
Hufanga, fresh off his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro, can’t patrol the elite defense alone — and especially not with an aggressive nature that occasionally led to big breaks last season.
If the 49ers lose safeties in free agency, maybe others can come along. Here’s a look at that landscape:
Hufanga, George Odum, Tayler Hawkins
Hufanga is entering his third season, so there are many tapes of him, as he was helped by a veteran sidekick. Odum is a special teams star, not a starting safety. Hawkins was a standout on the 49ers’ scouting team last season after coming in as an undrafted rookie.
PENDING FREE AGENTS
Ward, Gipson, Moore
After raising nearly $50 million since the 49ers drafted him in the first round in 2014, Ward seems determined to hit free agency rather than earn a spot in the franchise’s 10-year Wall Club. Gipson, 32, started all 20 games last season and recorded four of his five interceptions in the last five games of the regular season. General Manager John Lynch told reporters last month that the 49ers want Gipson to return and that he wants to continue his career, but that still seems like a short-term solution. Moore’s 2021 season was cut short by an Achilles tendon injury, and he had just four special teams tackles last season.
Jesse Bates III (Bengals), Jordan Poyer (Bills), CJ Gardner-Johnson (Eagles), Vonn Bell (Bengals), Julian Love (Giants), Donovan Wilson (Cowboys), Juan Thornhill (Chiefs), Marcus Epps (Eagles) , Adrian Amos (Packers), Juston Burris (Panthers).
Bates deserves a big payday, but it’s not likely to come from the 49ers. Poyer is a 30-plus-year veteran who was an injury magnet, and the 49ers already had that in Ward (Poyer also said he “would love to go to a state that doesn’t take half my money (via taxes).”
This is the third in a five-part series that showcases the 49ers’ approach to free agency.
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