49ers Could Gamble on Breakout 24-Year-Old Raven to Fill Defensive Hole - Sport News

49ers Could Gamble on Breakout 24-Year-Old Raven to Fill Defensive Hole

Every NFL team deals with injuries as the season—and the postseason—goes on, and relatively speaking, the 49ers were not too badly affected by bumps and bruises and tears. But there’s no doubt that one costly injury for the 49ers defense this year that did not get a lot of attention was that of Talanoa Hufanga, the Pro Bowl safety who tore his ACL in November and missed the remainder of the season.

Safety Geno Stone could fill a hole for the 49ers defense.

The 49ers got solid showings from Ji’Ayir Brown and veteran Logan Ryan, but Hufanga was badly missed for his playmaking and, especially, for his run support.

With veteran Tashaun Gipson possibly not coming back next season, one area of interest in 49ers free agency figures to be the safety spot. There will be some solid veterans on the market, but one who might make the most sense, according to Bleacher Report, is Baltimore’s Geno Stone.

Stone, a former seventh-rounder out of Iowa, is coming off a breakout year for the Ravens, setting a career high in interceptions (7) and passes defensed (9). After giving up a quarterback rating of 104.2 when he was targeted in 2022, Stone gave up just a 63.8 rating in 2023. He would beef up a relatively weak 49ers safety spot.

49ers Defense Could Need a Tashaun Gipson Replacement

When looking at changes that could come for the 49ers in the wake of the disappointing Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs, B/R’s Kristopher Knox looked at the back end of the secondary.

“One of them might be starting safety Tashaun Gipson,” he wrote. “He’s still a quality starter, but he’ll also turn 34 in August. Depending on how much they value Gipson’s leadership, the 49ers may look to pair another young safety with Ji’Ayir Brown and Talanoa Hufanga and allow the veteran to depart.

“If the 49ers do move on from Gipson, they may target a younger safety like Geno Stone.”

Stone would be within the 49ers’ budget, depending on the choices San Francisco makes in other areas of the roster. At Pro Football Focus, he is projected to get a two-year contract for $13 million, or $6.5 million per year. At Spotrac, Stone’s number is $7.2 million per year, and he is projected to get $21.6 million over three seasons.

PFF ranks him as the No. 52 free agent overall, and the No. 5 safety on the board.

Geno Stone: Great in Coverage, Struggles in Run Support

Whether Stone fits what the 49ers defense wants to do, though, could be another question. If they value his playmaking ability, on a roster that led the NFL in interceptions last year with 22, Stone could be an ideal fit. If they want Stone to play up in the slot or in the box, as Gipson often does, they could look elsewhere.

In its assessment of Stone as a free agent this offseason, PFF wrote:

“In his first season playing in a full-time role on a defense that deploys three-safety looks as much as any team in the NFL, Stone boasted an 84.9 PFF coverage grade in the regular season that ranked seventh at the position and brought in a position-leading seven interceptions. The knocks on Stone will be about his lack of deployment in the box or the slot and his poor run defense and tackling, missing 19% of tackle opportunities this season.”

Stone is 24 and is still very much developing—his strengths are obvious and his weaknesses can be fixed. But signing Stone would, at least, represent a small gamble for the 49ers defense.

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