The 49ers on Thursday offered an example of how they'll conduct business in coming years.
In March, they allowed a pricey veteran, safety Dashon Goldson, to sign elsewhere in free agency. In April, they replaced him in the draft.
San Francisco traded up 13 slots in the first round for LSU safety Eric Reid, who at 6-2, 210 pounds will be expected to take over Goldson's long-time role as the team's enforcer out of the secondary.
"We feel good about his ability to insert and play a physical brand of football," said general manager Trent Baalke. "Heady ball player. He triggers fast on the run, he reacts well to the pass. It's about learning the angles to the pro game and learning the speed of the pro game. But we feel very confident he's going to be able to do that and do it quickly."
A bonus for the 49ers - Reid, 21, already was very familiar to coach Jim Harbaugh, who recruited him heavily to play at Stanford. Harbaugh said he figured he'd have a hard time convincing Eric Reid, Sr., a three-time All-American hurdler at LSU, that his son should go to school in California. But he thought he had an in with the player's mother, Sharon, who stressed academics to her son and who exchanged a number of emails with Harbaugh four years ago.
The younger Reid, who was was born in Baton Rouge and who was rated the state's top defensive player in high school, said he "bled purple and gold" and ultimately chose his hometown university. Still, he noted that Stanford was the only team that recruited him as energetically as LSU.
"The story comes full circle that he ended up drafting me," said a jubilant Reid, via phone, from New York.
Said Harbaugh: "This time Eric had no choice in the matter, and it feels good to have him."
One of the traits he likes about Reid, Harbaugh said, are his smarts. "He was a very, very fine student," he said. "That was something that was important to his mother, so I felt like we had a shot."
It's also important to Reid. Asked to describe himself, Reid's first adjective was "cerebral." He also was a member of the SEC's all-academic team the past two seasons. "I pride myself on knowing the defense," he said. "I pride myself on being able to get the guys lined up on the team, and being a great teammate and also doing my job."
The selection also offers a glimpse of how the 49ers will try to sustain their strong roster.
The team is currently pressed against the salary cap, and it has a number of key contributors - including quarterback Colin Kaepernick - due for new contracts in coming years. The 49ers won't be able to keep all of those players, and the plan is to replenish through the draft.
Last month, for example, Goldson signed a five-year, $41.25 million contract with the Buccaneers. Reid will be dramatically less expensive. For example, the player picked 18th overall in last year's draft, San Diego's Melvin Ingram, signed a four-year deal worth $8.4 million.
The 49ers also inked ex-Rams safety Craig Dahl to a modest, three-year deal worth $5 million. As it stands now, Dahl is penciled in as the starting safety along with Donte Whitner but Reid will be expected to take over from Dahl at some point. Other safeties on the roster include C.J. Spillman, Darcel McBath, Michael Thomas and 2012 sixth-round selection Trenton Robinson.
"The guys in that locker room aren't going to sit there and worry about Eric Reid," Baalke said. "They've got a job to do, they're competitive guys, and they're going to make Eric earn everything he gets on this football team."
The 49ers entered the day with more picks - 13 - than any other team in the draft. They traded two of them -- their first-round pick, No. 31 overall, and the first of two third-round selections, No. 74 -- to the Cowboys for the right to take Reid at pick No. 18.
That means the 49ers still have 11 picks, including the second pick in the round that begins Friday. Does Baalke know the 49ers' pick at no. 34?
"Absolutely we know," he said. "But that doesn't mean that something can't happen overnight. And if you wake up tomorrow and the phone rings and somebody has a deal that you can't refuse, then you trade back."
-- Matt Barrows