49ers' Antoine Bethea Leads Defensive Backs in Tackles Since Entering NFL in '06

Bleacher Report MilestonesB/R StaffMarch 14, 2014

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 11:  Antoine Bethea #41 of the Indianapolis Colts misses a catch in the end zone against the New England Patriots during the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

After spending the first eight years of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, safety Antoine Bethea agreed to a four-year, $26 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday, per Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports.

Long considered one of the NFL's most underrated defenders, Bethea ranks first among all defensive backs with 806 tackles since he entered the league in 2006, per ESPN Stats & Info. He's reached the 100-tackle mark in five of the last six seasons, falling just short with a mere 95 tackles in 2009.

While raw tackle numbers obviously aren't the best measure of a safety, Bethea's statistics stick out due to his strong work in coverage and durability. Most of the top tackling safeties specialize in run defense, while Bethea is equally comfortable coming up in the box or dropping back into deep coverage.

Furthermore, the former Colt has missed just five games in his career, with all five of those games coming during his first two seasons. Staying healthy is a hard task at any position, but hard-hitting safeties seem to deal with more than their fair share of injuries.

Bethea will probably never get the credit he deserves, but that comes with the territory of his position, and he's surely happy to chase a second Super Bowl with a fat contract in hand. The 49ers, meanwhile, get one of the few true difference-makers available at a position dominated by replaceable parts.

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