What Does a Free Safety Do in Football? 2024 Updates

What Does a Free Safety Do in Football?

In football, there is enough space and so many options for the offense to attack that position and expose the weak defender.

Irrespective of the scheme, a free safety with excellent range needs to get protected by amazing players around him. 

Such players can block and limit creases and space for the offense to attach. But do you know what free safety does in football

The free safety watches the match unfold and follows the ball. Also, they play as the defensive quarterback of the backfield. Free safety is mainly assigned to the quarterback in man coverage. As the quarterback stays in the pocket, the free safety is capable of covering another player. 

What Does a Free Safety Do in Football?

What Does a Free Safety Do in Football

A free safety in American football is a very significant and versatile position on the football field. As the name shows, safety is the last line of defense. 

Free safety’s main job is to make sure no offensive players catch a touchdown. If we compare with a strong safety a free safety even is the deepest player on the defense.

In the spread offense era, the safety position is considered one of the most vital positions in football. Safety’s main role is to make sure that there will be no big plays. 

If the offense has a big play, there is a high chance of scoring a touchdown or field goal. The physical build of safety is usually bigger than the cornerback and smaller than the linebacker

This position requires extreme speed and athleticism. Some NFL safeties including Troy Polamummu and Ed Reed are excellent examples of players who covered the pass and run-down running backs. However, it happened to get big yards.

The free safety position is quite common in most defensive structures. This player has a unique skill set as they have to cover the ground. 

Usually, free safeties are the lone safeties. While watching a football game, you will notice that free safeties are the deepest players on the field. Free safety supports any type of deep pass. 

They don’t have any assignments but they help to cover the middle of the field. Therefore most football coaches put their most athletic and capable tackler at the safety position. 

If there is a big play, the player has to tackle the ball carrier immediately. Also, free safety specializes in tackling players in the open field.

Why is it called a free safety in football?

The name free safety comes from the fact that the safety is free for covering the deep part of the field. 

Instead of risking a fumble or having to punt from the end zone and risk a blocked punt, the team can down the ball in the end zone. 

Here the ball should be moved to the 25-yard line and punted from there. It is called free safety as it was considered a safe strategy.

Also Read: What is an A Back in Football?

Is free safety important in football?

What is Free Safety

In football, a good free safety discusses everything that he sees on the field with his defense. Free safeties must be a good tackler. Free safety is the last line of defense so they must halt any play that is ready to break free.

The free safeties usually line up 15 yards from the line of scrimmage. They have the job of tackling the ball carrier on both running plays and passing plays if they break through the defensive line. 

So, they are the last line of defense. Also, they stop big plays before they break for a bigger one.

You can notice that teams are getting more conservative with how they utilize their free safety to adopt a better approach. It allows teams to stop the run from a two-deep alignment. 

These teams usually drop the boundary or strong safety down on the opposite end of the field. So, it is clear that free safety is quite significant in football.

Related: What Does a Halfback Do in Football?

What makes a great free safety?

According to the defensive scheme, safety should be a person that has the perfect combination of speed, size, quickness, and tackling ability

The free safety needs open-field speed to be close on the ball, wherever it ends up. He must have the quickness to adjust the receiver routes. 

Also, he should have good vision and the ability to read plays quickly. It lets them understand where to find the attack point of the play.

The free safety needs the strength and size to tackle properly in the open field. Last but not least, free safety requires endurance or tolerance. 

On some particular play, he may have to cover more field than anyone else on the defense. Overall, we can say that free safeties must be amazing play readers and instant decision-makers. 

However, quarterbacks often call plays that confuse safety. Therefore free safeties also should know the possible movements and plays of the quarterbacks. 

So, the person who will have speed, tackling ability, and athleticism, can be a great free safety.

What is The Difference Between Strong and Free Safety?

In football there are two safety positions on the defense. Sometimes their work overlaps, but many times the safeties are assigned very distinct roles in the defense. 

These safety positions are; free safety and strong safety. Usually, safeties tend to line up 10 to 15 yards in front of the line of scrimmage. Safeties have to complete their task depending on the defensive scheme at hand.

Strong safety- Strong safety is more involved in the running game on the whole. He is a linebacker with the speed of a safety. He covers receivers and has to be a strong force on a running play. 

In the field, strong safety is positioned in the middle of the field, on the strong side of the formation. 

Usually, these defenders stay close to the line of scrimmage and are involved in putting a halt to the run. Also, they have to guard the tight end on passing plays.

Also Read: What Does a Strong Safety Do?

Free safety- Free safety on the other hand is the last line of defense on the football field. They are more of a pass-minded defender. 

The main job of free safety is to sit back, survey, and attack where required. With the sophistication of some offenses, free safety needs to fill on running plays as he is often the only one unblocked.

So, we can say that free safety and strong safety are almost similar positions with some minor differences. In this way, they are mostly like the three linebacker positions. 

Players who play as safeties can change between the two positions. However, some experts are much more fit for the positions one over the other.

Can Free Safeties Play Strong Safety?

The duties of safety are different. Therefore, the required skills vary according to the different positions. 

It is not that free safety can’t play as strong safety. The fact is only that the players should have specific skills that make them a better fit at certain positions.

Who's the best free safety in the NFL?

best free safety in the NFL

Usually, safeties are the most forgotten players of the team. But in 2021 free safeties are not any less important to the defense. 

They are responsible for the calls in the secondary and they are the last line of defense. In the NFL some of the best free safeties are;

  • Kevin Byard from the Tennessee Titans.
  • Khari Willis from the Indianapolis Colts.
  • Kamren Curl from the Washington Football Team.
  • Antoine Winfield Jr. from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • Anthony Harris from the Philadelphia Eagles.


Free safety is the player who is the last in line. ‘Safety’ name is given to one of two players on the defense who start the farthest back. 

After reading the above information, hopefully, you understand what free safety does in football. It is clear that free safety plays a significant role in the entire match.

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