With the majority of the San Francisco 49ers offseason discussion centered around which rookie quarterback the team will draft third overall, not much has been made of the defense, which will be headed up by new defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans in 2021.
While top cornerback Richard Sherman remains a free agent and is unlikely to re-sign with Niners, general manager John Lynch and company have done well retaining other top free agent talents in the secondary, including Jason Verrett, K’Waun Williams and Jaquiski Tartt. Now the team appears to have its sights set on another veteran playmaker in the back end.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Monday, April 19, the 49ers will host former Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens safety Tony Jefferson for a physical and workout this week.
Former #Ravens safety Tony Jefferson is set to visit the #49ers this week for a workout and physical, per sources. Was key player for Baltimore defense before serious knee injury in Week 5 of 2019. If fully recovered, intriguing option for 49ers' secondary.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) April 19, 2021
NFL insider Josina Anderson first reported back on March 26 that Jefferson was in the process of scheduling visits, including his first one with the 49ers in “about 2-3 weeks.”
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Jefferson Hasn’t Played Since Week 5 of 2019
Jefferson, 29, originally entered the league in 2013 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Oklahoma. He spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the NFC West rival Cardinals, where he worked his way up to a full-time starting role by 2016. The following offseason, Jefferson inked a four-year, $34 million contract with the Ravens.
The 5-foot-11, 211-pounder has earned a reputation as a hard-hitting force in the secondary and has been a consistent producer on the stat sheet, compiling 451 combined tackles, 22 pass breakups, 8.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles and four interceptions in 98 games (66 starts). He also notched at least 74 total tackles between 2014 and 2018 before a torn ACL and LCL suffered in Week 5 of the 2019 campaign abruptly ended his streak.
Jefferson was cut by the Ravens on February 14, 2020 and sat out all of last season recovering from the devastating injury to his left knee. Like many, the free agent safety’s rehab process was also directly impacted by COVID-19.
Jefferson’s Rehab Interrupted by COVID-19
According to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec, because of the pandemic, the seven-year veteran was forced to transition his workouts from his physical therapist’s office to his home — where finding the right equipment proved to be a challenge.
“I was really getting into a groove with my workouts and my rehab,” Jefferson told Zrebiec in April 2020. “I was really turning the corner and then, this comes. … Most [exercise equipment] is sold out because I guess everybody is trying to use the [in-home] equipment now. I’m waiting two or three weeks just to get a medicine ball.”
Even with multiple teams showing interest last spring, Zrebiec wrote that Jefferson was further put in a tough spot as NFL team doctors were “not allowed to travel to conduct examinations and team facilities [were] closed to players needing to take physicals.”
Still, as Fowler noted on Twitter, the California native could make for an “intriguing option” as a rotational piece behind starters Jimmie Ward and Tartt at safety.
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