49ers Drop Surprise Injury Update for All-Pro, Hint at Free Agency Signing

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan

Getty San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan

The San Francisco 49ers have had a relatively quiet offseason, focusing on returning players rather than adding new pieces in free agency. Part of that is because they already have a talented roster, and there are names like safety Talanoa Hufanga returning to the squad.

That’s why the team had Indianapolis Colts S Julian Blackmon visit but leave without a deal. According to The Athletic’s David Lombardi, Hufanga will be back sometime during training camp and that means San Francisco is only looking for a backup.

“‘The 49ers anticipate Talanoa Hufanga will return from ACL “sometime in training camp’, per Kyle Shanahan, who also sounded optimistic about Hufanga’s ability to return to 100% of his old self,” Lombardi wrote on X on March 26. “SF would still like to add a safety, but they told recent visitor Julian Blackmon that a new addition wouldn’t necessarily be guaranteed a starting spot — general depth is Priority No. 1 with Hufanga coming off injury.”

Hufanga was a revelation for San Francisco in 2022, but an ACL tear wrecked his 2023 campaign. There was speculation that the 49ers could add a starter-level option, but now it is clear they are in the market for a backup.

Hufanga Becomes Focal Point of Defense

With names like linebacker Fred Warner and defensive end Nick Bosa, the 49ers had elite options in their front seven. But in 2021, the selection of Hufanga in the fifth-round of that year’s draft would complete the “spine” of the defense with a top-level safety.

After an encouraging season in a minor role in 2021, Hufanga exploded onto the national scene in 2022. According to PFR, the former USC Trojan intercepted 4 passes, registered 9 passes defended and added 2 sacks.

Hufanga was named a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler and entered the 2023 campaign with serious hype. Through 10 games, Hufanga had already snagged three interceptions.

But an ACL tear in Week 11 ended his season prematurely. Further, it prompted questions of his availability for the 2024 season. Fortunately for the 49ers, it appears as though the 24-year-old is on schedule with his recovery.

49ers Could Keep Eye on Julian Blackmon

While San Francisco and Julian Blackmon were clearly on different pages, don’t rule out a potential deal. Blackmon is coming off his best pro season, but the issue is that he still doesn’t have a deal.

There are teams that could definitely use the 25-year-old’s talents after his 4-interception season. But with the draft upcoming and primary waves of free agency behind teams, Blackmon is stuck in limbo.

If he ends up being the odd man out, the 49ers could get insane value for Blackmon’s ability. If he’s not guaranteed to start elsewhere, playing on a talented team like the 49ers is the best-case scenario.

Hufanga may be recovering well. But ACL tears unfortunately signal more injuries down the line. Blackmon could still get his starting chance if worse comes to worse for Hufanga.

It is probably a long-shot move at this point. But if San Francisco is in the market for a safety, there is plenty of reason to monitor Blackmon’s free agency saga going forward.