***Updated*** The 1 p.m. deadline came and went. That means that Dashon Goldson will not be able to sign a long-term deal with the 49ers until after the season when the negotiation dance starts anew.
Frustrated that Dashon Goldson and the 49ers can't agree on a long-term deal? Blame Eric Weddle and Antrel Rolle. The two safeties signed deals in the last two years that make them among the highest-paid safeties in the league. Other safeties, such as Goldson, have looked at those deals and said, 'I'm at least as good as that guy.'
At 1 p.m. today, the deadline will pass on signing Goldson to a long-term deal. Instead, he'll be limited to the franchise number for safeties --$6.212 million - or he won't play at all in 2012. Goldson seemed resigned to playing under the franchise tag number during an interview with Sirius XM NFL radio last week. Veterans report to training camp on July 26.
Goldson probably is right in thinking he deserves as much as Weddle and Rolle, who signed five-year, $37 million and a five-year, $40 million contracts respectively.
Goldson is unique. He's taller, more physical and more aggressive than most free safeties, who are becoming more and more like glorified cornerbacks in a league which emphasizes the the passing game a little more each year.
Goldson is smart, popular among teammates, and he's coming off the best season of his career, one in which he had six interceptions during the regular season and one during the playoffs.
Furthermore, the 49ers don't have anyone proven behind him. When the 49ers didn't offer Goldson the lucrative long-term deal he was seeking last year, they were eying Reggie Smith at free safety, and they brought in veteran Madieu Williams in case Smith didn't work out.
Both Smith and Williams are gone. C.J. Spillman, who played just 16 snaps at safety last year, is the top backup behind Goldson. The team also drafted Trenton Robinson in the sixth round and signed undrafted Michael Thomas out of Stanford.
The 49ers, meanwhile, have been successful in recent years with a disciplined approach to their salary cap. They place a value on a player and don't budge from that value during negotiations. (See: Smith, Alexander D., circa March 2012). They obviously feel that Goldson is the best free safety on the team, but they think he's more in line with the second tier of NFL safeties. The subtext of all this: It's not our problem if the Giants and Chargers overvalued Rolle and Weddle.
While Goldson's aggression fits San Francisco's physical and punishing personality on defense, it also has gotten him into trouble. He was burned for critical touchdowns in last year's loss to Arizona, he overran the play on a late touchdown pass to Darren Sproles against New Orleans in the playoffs, and he crashed into cornerback Tarell Brown on what would have been an easy interception in the championship game against the Giants. Brown had to leave the game, and his replacement, Tramaine Brock, was in coverage on the Giants' final touchdown.
-- Matt Barrows