Dahl's deal keeps other options open

Dahl on joining 49ers: 'Not the enemy anymore'

Dahl's deal keeps other options open
March 16, 2013, 8:15 pm
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Craig Dahl on Saturday signed a three-year, $5 million contract with the 49ers that includes a signing bonus of $800,000. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

PHOENIX -- Safety Craig Dahl, who started 16 games for the St. Louis Rams last season, has a chance to replace Dashon Goldson as a 49ers starter.

But he'll have to earn it.

Dahl on Saturday signed a three-year, $5.25 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $700,000, according to a source at the NFL Annual Meeting.

[REWIND: 49ers sign safety Craig Dahl to three-year deal]

It's not considered "starter's money," but as the source said, "In this market, who knows?"

The 49ers have a big void to fill at free safety, where the All-Pro Goldson started the past four seasons.

The 49ers were unwilling to come close to meeting Goldson's contract demands, and on the second day of free agency he signed a lucrative deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers certainly do not figure to get anyone at Goldson's level to fill his spot.

Dahl's signing fits the 49ers' strategy in free agency. They try to find players who fit their schemes, and they do not overpay for anyone. Dahl said in performing his "due diligence," he asked about the other safeties with whom the 49ers visited. Charles Woodson and Louis Delmas visited before Dahl. Woodson remains available, while Delmas re-signed with the Detroit Lions.

"They'd mentioned they brought in a few other guys, but they were very select in finding a person and who they'd envisioned fitting their mold in San Francisco," Dahl said.

Dahl, 27, a five-year veteran, said the 49ers are getting a safety who can quickly absorb defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's system. He spoke extensively with defensive backs coach Ed Donatell about the responsibilities of his position.

"I think I can definitely get everybody on the same page," Dahl said in a conference call after his signing. "I'll pick up on this defense very quick. I've already had discussions with my position coaches, and we've gone over a few things and roles in each of the safety positions on this defense.

"I don't think I'll have a problem getting to know the guys and working hard and them seeing me put in the work and effort I do to gain their trust and their confidence in my ability."

The Dahl signing does not necessarily close the door on Woodson, who visited the 49ers on Wednesday after the Green Bay Packers released him Feb. 15. But it's clear the 49ers are not going to extend themselves for Woodson, who turns 37 in October.

Like Dahl, any player the 49ers bring in at safety will not be assured a starting job. The 49ers are expected to take a safety with one of their top selection in the draft, which runs Thursday, April 25, through Saturday, April 27.

The expected rookie would then join the competition with Dahl, C.J. Spillman and Trenton Robinson, and perhaps others, to start alongside strong safety Donte Whiter. Dahl said he is ready for the competition.

"I'm always open for competition," he said. "I know how the game progresses. The team that is always progressing is always bringing in guys to compete for positions. Whether I'm lined up out there from Day 1, it's always going to be a competition to keep your job when you're the starter. I'm grateful for the opportunity I was given and hope to be that guy."

Although the 49ers return all their cornerbacks from a year ago, they are looking to add a bigger body. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who visited the 49ers on Thursday, is still available. However, Asomugha is scheduled to visit the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, a source told CSNBayArea.com. Rob Ryan, Asomugha's defensive coordinator with the Raiders, is now in charge of the Saints' defense.

The 49ers return four of their top cornerbacks -- Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Cullver and Perrish Cox -- and the other, Tramaine Brock, has been tendered as a restricted free agent.

With Woodson and Asomugha -- and all free agents, for that matter -- there is very little negotiating. The 49ers' front office of general manager Trent Baalke and chief negotiator Paraag Marathe assign a "value" to players and they generally do not waver.