A month ago, Dashon Goldson made it clear he didn't want the franchise tag for the second straight season. "I felt that they wanted me to prove myself, and I think I did just that," the safety said as he was cleaning out his locker. "So if I was in the position again with the franchise tag, I'd be very surprised."
Barring a last-second change of plans, Goldson will get his wish and escape the franchise tag - teams have until 1 p.m. today to assign it - but it remains to be seen which team will give him the long-term contract he is seeking. The 49ers currently have $1 million in salary-cap space. They will gain $9.75 million more when they trade Alex Smith later this month, and another $3 million in savings could be gained by releasing kicker David Akers, which is expected.
Still, the 49ers already have given long-term contracts to several defensive players - Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks - in recent years, and there has been little progress to this point in the negotiations with Goldson. Over the last two offseasons, Goldson has been seeking a deal similar to the one safety Eric Weddle signed with the Chargers in 2011 - five years for $40 million. The 49ers have refused to match that asking price, a stalemate that continues today.
General manager Trent Baalke would not get into specifics while talking with local reporters at the scouting combine last month. But Baalke did say this about his free-agent class: "It's all about value, making sure you get the right value on players. You can't pay everybody, and you certainly can't pay everybody if you're overpaying others."
The 49ers want to do a long-term deal with tight end Delanie Walker, and they'd like to re-sign one of their two nose tackles, Ricky Jean Francois and Isaac Sopoaga. Beyond that, they could add a defensive lineman (Cullen Jenkins is visiting Tuesday), a wide receiver or a cornerback when free agency begins next week.
They also have some pricey contracts to think about down the road. Colin Kaepernick is signed for two more years and can begin discussing an extension at the end of next season. Tarell Brown and Justin Smith only have one more year on their contracts; Michael Crabtree and Aldon Smith have two more seasons remaining.
Baalke said the 49ers also were examining contract extensions. "But it takes both sides to be able to come together on a number," he said. "And sometimes you're able to do that, and sometimes you're not. We're going to work hard at it, be diligent at it, but we're also going to make sure we make good decisions."
- Matt Barrows