After striking it big during the first wave of free agency, with big-named performers like Javon Hargrave and Sam Darnold making their way to Santa Clara County, the San Francisco 49ers have been keeping busy, signing safety Myles Hartsfield to a contract on March 18th, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL.com.
An undrafted free agent out of Ole Miss in 2020, Hartsfield played his first three professional seasons as a member of the Carolina Panthers, where he amassed 118 tackles, seven passes defensed, and a sack. Though his time with the team started off slowly, mostly logging snaps on special teams, Hartsfield became a fixture of Phil Snow’s and eventually now-49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks’ defense, starting 19 of the 25 games he appeared in from 2021-22 while playing 76 percent of the Panthers’ defensive snaps during that period, according to Pro Football Reference.
Now reunited with Wilks in a secondary that just lost Jimmie Ward to the Houston Texans and Tarvarius Moore to the Green Bay Packers, Hartsfield projects as a reserve behind incumbent starters Talanoa Hufunga and Tashaun Gipson, but will have a chance to compete with Tayler Hawkins and George Odum to become the first safety off the bench in the Niners’ defense and potentially even earn some looks at slot cornerback with Isaiah Oliver, Samuel Womack III, and Ambry Rhomas.
The Panthers Allowed Myles Hartsfield to Test Free Agency
In the NFL, teams are required to sign undrafted free agents to three-year contracts, which leaves the player a restricted free agent when the deal comes to an end, according to Pro Football Network. While these restricted free agents can agree to new, long-term deals with their teams, as Colton McKivitz experienced this year, oftentimes, teams will tender their restricted free agents to a one-year deal, worth either $6.005 million, $4.304 million, or $2.627 million, depending on the option a general manager chooses to use.
After three years in Carolina, the Panthers could have signed Hartsfield to his original round/right-of-first refusal tender, which would have come in at $2.627 million to guarantee that he returned to the team for a fourth season, but for one reason or another, likely the cap hit, general manager Scott Fitterer decided against it, allowing the Ole Miss product to sign wherever he’d like on whatever deal his representation could land.
While Hartsfield may not be a household name, he’s a proven starter with extensive experience in Wilks’ scheme, and who knows, he may even help out on offense, too, as the New Jersey native actually took a few snaps in the offensive backfield in Carolina.
Did the San Francisco 49ers’ Offense Land a new Wrinkle?
In Carolina, Hartsfield was teammates with Darnold and Christian McCaffrey, but did you know he actually shared the offensive backfield with the duo, too? It’s true, as, after recruiting Hartsfield to Temple as a running back, Matt Rhule gave his safety a chance to spell McCaffrey in the offensive backfield for a few snaps in 2020.
“I was excited because I felt like going to college, I should’ve played running back. And I wanted to play running back,” Hartsfield said to Myles Simmons of Panthers.com. “But going to school as an athlete, and growing up with the parents I grew up with, you don’t second guess what a coach is trying to tell you.”
Unfortunately for Hartsfield, his run at RB was short-lived, as he ended up only earning two rushing attempts for two yards in 2020, and the look wasn’t revisited again, but who knows, considering Kyle Shanahan’s creativity on offense, some fans have suggested that some more gadget work on the opposite side of the ball could very much be in play.