Harbaugh: Dashon Goldson is someone that you reward
Dashon Goldson is one of the 49ers' 13 free agents this offseason. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
This is the third consecutive time two-time Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson has played his final game without a contract for the upcoming season.
There is little question that he is the 49ers' top priority to re-sign, but at what cost? The 49ers and Goldson (and his agents) have not reached terms on a long-term contract the past two offseasons.
Goldson has sought a deal worth an average of $8 million annually. The 49ers can retain his rights on a one-year, $7.45 million contract as the franchise player, but that's not what he wants or feels he deserves.
Even coach Jim Harbaugh, speaking Tuesday at his season-ending press conference, made a public endorsement for the 49ers' front office to sign Goldson to a long-term contract.
"He's somebody that I think you reward," Harbaugh said. "You know he's out there, and opposing offenses know that he's out there. He tackles and does everything that you'd want a safety to do. I feel like you reward those types of people. Who do you reward if you don't reward those types of people?"
Here's a look at the entire class of 49ers scheduled free agents:
S Dashon Goldson: The 49ers can place the franchise tag on him, but the time might be here for a long-term deal that averages around $8 million a year that would be structured in a way to create cap space in 2013.
TE Delanie Walker: Those who fixate on dropped passes are missing the big picture. Walker does so much for this team with his blocking and special-teams play. He is a big priority for the 49ers to re-sign, but will other teams come calling with a sizable contract offer?
NT Ricky Jean Francois: He's young, and he's versatile. Harbaugh said he was virtually unblockable in practices leading up to the Super Bowl. He is a valuable backup, but he might get starter's money elsewhere.
NT Isaac Sopoaga: The nine-year veteran becomes less valuable because the 49ers -- and every team around the league -- play nickel defense so much. He played just 31-percent of the team's defensive snaps.
WR Ted Ginn: He came on strong at the end of the season as a return man. The 49ers can do a lot worse than bringing him back for another season to handle the return duties.
WR Randy Moss: Harbaugh said he wants Moss back. Moss said he wants to play another NFL season, but Moss would not say he wanted to return to the 49ers. He did not like his role. At his age, he's not likely to become a big part of the offense if he were back in 2013. The 49ers probably need more versatility from a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. Typically, non-starting receivers are core special-teams players. Moss gave the 49ers everything they wanted -- especially off the field, but it might be best for both sides to move on.
CB Tramaine Brock (RFA): The kid is a talent, and there's no harm in bringing him back next summer to compete for a role as a backup or on special teams.
S Darcel McBath: He was the 49ers' most versatile special-teams players. For a minimum salary, he should be back to compete for a roster spot.
OL Leonard Davis: He did a good job as a backup, and would be a candidate to return at a minimum price tag. The 49ers are likely to bring in more young players to compete for depth on the offensive line.
LB Larry Grant: He wants to be a starter, and he got no attention around the league as a restricted free agent. This time, he'll be unrestricted, and he is likely to get an opportunity elsewhere.
LB Tavares Gooden: At a minimum price tag, Gooden would likely be welcomed back to compete for a role behind Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, as well as on special teams.
LB Clark Haggans: He was signed after Parys Haralson's season-ending injury. Haralson is under contract, and youngsters Cam Johnson and Darius Fleming are back. Those three players will fight for backup roles. Haggans saw very little action, and probably will not be back.
WR Chad Hall (EFA): The 49ers might want to give him a long look in the offseason program and training to determine whether he has what it takes as a return man and slot receiver.