49ers Should Stash 8-Year Veteran on the Practice Squad

San Francisco 49ers, Jaquiski Tartt

Getty Jaquiski Tartt of the San Francisco 49ers.

After spending his summer with the Philadelphia Eagles, long-time San Francisco 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt is officially a free agent.

Though he did an alright job of putting in work for the Eagles when he was actually on the field, as he appeared in just two preseason games after missing the preseason opener due to personal issues, he was ultimately released following a good effort versus the Cleveland Browns and a not-so-good performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Despite having poor depth at the time before Howie Roseman’s trade for Chauncy Gardner-Johnson, Tartt was released in the final trim down to 53, and he wasn’t offered a spot on the Eagles, or any team’s active roster or practice squad for that matter, either.

Will a team give Tartt a chance before Week 18 comes to a close? More likely than not, yes, but if John Lynch is wise, he won’t allow that to happen. No, with Jimmie Ward expected to miss the first four weeks of the season at the very least, stashing Tartt away on the practice squad would bring back a player who isn’t a perfect stand-in at free safety but does have more snaps in DeMeco Ryan’s defense than all but five players currently on the team.

So his addition to the defense would be as close to seamless as any practice squad candidate signed in early September.

The 49ers Showed Little Interest in Tartt as a Free Agent

After spending eight seasons with the 49ers, Tartt officially became an unrestricted free agent in March of 2022.

Though his 2021 season wasn’t quite as good as the few prior, as he earned a defensive grade of 61.8 from PFF versus a 65.3 for 2020 and a 66.4 for 2019, few fans wanted him outright released, with some actually lobbying to bring him back after failing to address the position in either free agency or the draft.

Unfortunately, that thought process was not shared by Lynch, who addressed Tartt’s free agency during his post-draft media availability, as transcribed by Grant Cohn of Sports Illustrated:

“We haven’t talked to him. We haven’t gone there yet. We will see. He’s a free agent. We think highly of Jaquiski, he’s played a lot of good football for us and we’re grateful for that. Talented, talented dude. And he’ll play in this league and continue to play at a high level,” Lynch said.

Fortunately, Kyle Shanahan was a bit more open to bringing back Tartt, telling reporters, “one other guy we know that we believe in as a person and everyone knows Tartt played at a high level, and we would never rule out anybody like that.”

At the time, the Niners ultimately passed on giving Tartt a spot on their 90-man roster, but now that Ward is expected to miss a month, maybe more, Shanahan’s comments could prove valuable for the Samford product.

The Niners’ Depth Will Be Tested Early in September

With Ward on IR, the Niners have just three healthy safeties on their 53-man roster: Talanoa Hufanga, the team’s 2021 fifth-round pick out of USC who is expected to start at strong safety, Tarvarius Moore, a third-round pick out of Southern Mississippi from 2018, and Greg Odom, a free agent acquisition from the Indianapolis Colts.

Of the trio, Moore has the most on-field experience, with 1,005 defensive snaps over his three years in San Francisco, but he’s more of a free safety than a strong safety and thus may not be the smoothest replacement for Ward.

Odom, too, has a good bit of experience on the defensive side of the ball, as he played 982 defensive snaps over his four years in Indianapolis. Though closer to Ward in terms of playing style, Odom was signed in part because of his pedigree as an All-Pro special teamer and has just 10 starts on his resume over four professional seasons.

Discouraged? You don’t have to be; San Francisco padded out their practice squad with Tashaun Gipson, Tayler Hawkins, and Dontae Johnson, the team’s fourth-round pick in 2014 who can play any position across the defensive backfield. Even if the Niners don’t ultimately sign Tartt to their practice squad, the team should still be able to weather Ward’s injury thanks to the NFL’s new rule that allows practice squad members to be elevated three times during the regular season.

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