Jaquiski Tartt is out for the season, so the 49ers’ future at the safety position is now.
Marcell Harris took over as the starter in the immediate aftermath of Tartt's season-ending turf toe injury.
But when the 49ers played in Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints, the club turned to Tarvarius Moore to pair in the secondary with free safety Jimmie Ward.
Harris is more of a strong safety who is a quasi-linebacker. Moore is considered a free safety. But that distinction has little significance, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said earlier this week.
“They're definitely interchangeable,” Saleh said Wednesday. “So to get caught up on the strong safety/free safety thing, it'd be a very, very long dissertation.”
Tartt is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after this season. Moore, a third-round draft pick in 2018, has one year remaining on his contract. Harris is slated to be a restricted free agent.
The 49ers have six games remaining to determine if Moore or Harris is capable of being a lower-cost replacement for Tartt in 2021 and beyond.
Saleh said he 49ers went with Moore over Harris to get more speed on the field against the Saints’ multi-receiver personnel groupings. The 49ers could face a similar decision against the Los Angeles Rams, who feature Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds as their top three wide receivers.
The 49ers can move around Ward to play close to the line of scrimmage, play man coverage against receivers or simply roam the middle of the field.
“Jimmie so versatile, frees up Jimmie to do a little bit more than just stay in the middle of a field also with Tartt being out and moving Marcell to play more of that dime look, he’s still a safety, is just a compliment more to allow Jimmie some freedom to go play more, to do more and unlock some of the talents that he has,” Saleh said.
“And then at the same time, being able to utilize some of the strength that T-Moore has. So, just trying to get our best 11 on the football field, try to get a little bit faster and continue to work with it and see what happens.”