For the second consecutive year, Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson will be returning to the San Francisco 49ers on a one-year contract, albeit with a significant pay raise for this upcoming season (NBC Bay Area).
After failing to strike a long-term deal with the team by the July 16 deadline, Goldson must play out the season under the one-year, $6.212 million franchise tag. Goldson is not expected to hold out, and even went out of his way to squash those talks before the deadline passed (NFL.com).
Of course, Goldson reporting to camp on time doesn’t mean that he’s completely satisfied with the 49ers. As with nearly every other franchise player over the past few years, Goldson was undoubtedly looking for something more substantial than a one-year commitment from his team.
The 49ers obviously saw that long-term value when they offered Goldson a five-year, $25 million contract prior to the 2011 season. However, Goldson balked at that deal and instead decided to test the open market before returning on a one-year contract.
One year later, long-term negotiations between the two sides still don’t appear to have progressed much further than that.
Several reports have likened Goldson’s demands to the recent contracts of Chargers safety Eric Weddle (five years, $40 million) and Titans safety Michael Griffin (five years, $36 million). Even though Goldson was an unquestionable key contributor last season, has one breakout season earned him a contract worth $7-8 million per year?
No one can deny Goldson’s value to the 49ers defense as a ball-hawking, hard-hitting safety, but a level of consistency still has yet to be displayed. Simply put, one Pro Bowl season can’t blindly be taken as a sign of things to come.
If general manager Trent Baalke has established anything in his short tenure, it is an unwavering stance on player value. In this case, the 49ers stuck to their guns and refused to pay a player based on a seemingly inflated market value, instead getting the player they wanted at a price they were willing to accept.
However, the 2012 season will have to serve as a good barometer to truly judge Goldson’s long-term worth. In the event that Goldson matches his Pro Bowl level of play in 2012, the 49ers would most likely have to make a decision regarding his future with the team without the leverage of the franchise tag.
This is due to a few notable contracts expiring at the end of this season, including those of defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga, tight end Delanie Walker and wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. The 49ers would most likely want to avoid tagging Goldson again, with particular interest to Sopoaga potentially hitting the open market.
Ultimately, this strategy should work out for the best for both parties involved. Should Goldson appear to be a one-hit wonder, the 49ers could allow him to walk, moving on with C.J. Spillman or another replacement at safety. But if Goldson once again shows up in Pro Bowl form, the team could work out a long-term compromise with much more assurance.
In either scenario, the team was wise to use every option at their disposal to avoid a potentially disastrous contract. Goldson has obviously shown flashes as a brilliant young player in this league, but he should be forced to back it up before the 49ers break the bank to keep him wearing red and gold.
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