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 torn ACL 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 knee injury. Like many, the free agent safety’s rehab process was also directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was really getting into a groove with my workouts and my rehab,” Jefferson told The Athletic’s Jeff 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.”
As Fowler noted on Twitter, the Chula Vista, California native could make for an “intriguing option” to fill in behind starters Jimmie Ward and Tartt at safety.
Chris Licata is an NFL contributor covering the San Francisco 49ers. Follow him on Twitter @Chris__Licata or join the Heavy on 49ers Facebook community for the latest out of the Bay Area!