The San Francisco 49ers didn’t waste anytime in replacing their former starting safety Donte Whitner.
After losing Whiter via free agency to the Cleveland Browns, the team moved quickly to secure the services of safety Antoine Bethea, who had spent eight seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. In Bethea, the 49ers get a durable, veteran player who can step right in and be a steady presence in the starting lineup. While Whitner had a reputation for jarring hits, Bethea is known for being sound fundamentally. He was not penalized at all in 2013, while Whitner was flagged five times for unnecessary roughness.
Bethea hasn’t missed a start in six seasons and has played in 96 consecutive games. That streak is the second longest in the NFL behind Detroit Lions special teams ace John Wendling. Bethea will play strong safety opposite Eric Reid in the 49ers’ secondary, but has the ability to play free safety as well, should Reid get injured or the need arise. With both safeties being so versatile, San Francisco will have the ability to mix up their defensive looks and keep opposing offenses off balance.
Despite the fact that he will be 30 years old when the season starts, it’s possible that Bethea’s best seasons could still be ahead of him. The reason for that is the fact that he has never played on a defense as dominant as the one San Francisco currently employs. The star studded 49ers’ defensive front is often able to get pressure by rushing only four men, and will make life easier for Bethea on the back end.
Another attractive quality Bethea brings to the bay is his experience in big games. With their window still open, the 49ers have their eyes on the Super Bowl, and Bethea has appeared in two of them with the Colts. Overall, he has been to the playoffs in 7-of-8 professional seasons, and will be up to the task should San Francisco get another opportunity to make a run at a championship.