Goldson's departure leaves 49ers weaker at safety

Goldson's departure leaves 49ers weaker at safety
March 14, 2013, 9:15 am
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The 49ers need to add a free safety to line up behind Donte Whitner. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The 49ers will not be better at free safety next season.

That's my opinion. Feel free to check back with me at any point in the season if you believe I'm wrong.

Dashon Goldson has been a very good player for the 49ers in his four years as a starter. The past two seasons, he has been outstanding -- and certainly worthy of being selected to the Pro Bowl twice.

He is a big hitter who took fewer chances in coverage last season. He rolled up some penalties and fines, but there's no denying wide receivers -- and the occasional tight end -- were wary of him patrolling the secondary.

He's a big reason only two teams in the NFL surrendered fewer passes of 20-plus yards in the regular season than the 49ers. As for the playoffs, of course, he deserves to take his share of responsibility for the failings of the 49ers' pass defense. Regardless, the 49ers are worse for having lost him.

But, again, I'll repeat those insightful words spoken by 49ers general manager Trent Baalke at the NFL scouting combine:

"You can't pay everybody, and you certainly can't pay everybody if you're overpaying others."

While Goldson will be difficult to replace, the 49ers obviously believe they would be hamstrung in other areas if they approached the kind of contract he was seeking -- and the kind of contract he ultimately received.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers awarded Goldson a five-year, $41.25 million contract on Wednesday that includes $22 million in guaranteed money. The 49ers, meanwhile, never even offered Goldson a contract.

The 49ers are taking the long view. Their two highest-paid players are Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, a pair of inside linebackers.

And they are reluctant to make any lucrative long-term deals when the relatively low-priced rookie contracts of Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith, Michael Crabtree, Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati will be expiring after the 2014 season.

Because the 49ers weren't going to pay Goldson, the club was able to spend a sixth-round draft pick to take on wide receiver Anquan Boldin's $6 million salary for this season in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens.

The 49ers can't pay everybody, and they've decided safety is a position that is not going to get top dollar from them.

Charles Woodson, released by the Green Bay Packers last month, visited the 49ers on Wednesday. He took a physical and spent a lot of time at the team's Santa Clara practice facility. He left without a contract.

Safety Louis Delmas is visiting with 49ers coaches and team officials on Thursday. Delmas, who has played in just 19 games the past two seasons due to knee problems, might have to follow the example of LaRon Landry.

Landry signed a one-year contract with the New York Jets a year ago to put himself in position for a better contract. And, yes, the 49ers were interested in Landry, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts for four years, $24 million with $11 million fully guaranteed.

The 49ers are also interested in Baltimore free agent safety Ed Reed, who is visiting the Houston Texans on Thursday. The Baltimore Sun reports Reed is seeking $6 million a year, and the Texans, who sent a private plane to pick him up, could get within "striking range."

So while the 49ers will not be improved for losing Goldson, it's easy to understand why the long-term health of the roster looks better than if the 49ers had paid him the big bucks.