The 49ers officially named safety Dashon Goldson their franchise player today. The team gave him the "non-exclusive" tag, which technically allows Goldson, who had been a pending unrestricted free agent, to shop himself on the open market beginning March 13.
However, the non-exclusive designation means the 49ers could match any offers he receives and, moreover, the 49ers would have to be compensated with two first-round draft picks by any team that signs him. That effectively takes Goldson, 27, off the market. The franchise tag number for safeties is expected to be $6.2 million.
Goldson's designation also makes it less likely that two other soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams, will be back with the 49ers. Smith, a former third-round pick, would have started this past season if Goldson had not made an unexpected return to the team after being disappointed with the free-agent market. Williams, meanwhile, also saw his role decrease upon Goldson's return. Both he and Smith will be looking for bigger roles when free agency begins March 13.
Players generally don't like the franchise tag because it comes in lieu of the long-term contracts - and long-term security - they are seeking. The last player the 49ers franchised, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, did not sign his deal until the middle of the 2010 preseason and missed all of the offseason practices and activities until that point.
Teams can continue to negotiate long-term deals with their franchised players until July 16, and general manager Trent Baalke indicated that would take place with Goldson and his new agent. "Dashon has been a 49er since we selected him in the fourth round of the 2007 draft," Baalke said in a statement. "By using the franchise tag on Dashon, it affords us the opportunity to continue to work on a long-term contract with him, while also ensuring he will be a 49er for a sixth season, in 2012."
-- Matt Barrows