They’re calling today “Franchise Friday” because many NFL teams are expected to put the franchise tag on players who could become unrestricted free agents later this month.
For the 49ers, that apparently will mean keeping veteran safety Dashon Goldson on the roster for 2012.
Goldson, who teamed with Donte Whitner to give the Niners a pair of hard-hitting safeties in the NFL’s fourth-ranked defense of 2011, will be franchise tagged today, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Goldson, 27, had 67 tackles for the 49ers with six interceptions and one forced fumble. In his fifth season in the NFL, all with San Francisco, Goldson was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
According to Cam Inman of the Bay Area News Group, the franchise tag will allow the 49ers to keep him next season while also providing a contract worth about $6 million to Goldson in 2012. It’s possible, Inman reports, that Goldson and the 49ers could also reach a longer-term deal than the one-year franchise-tag deal.
Last year, Goldson played on a one-year, $2 million deal after testing the free-agent market but deciding to remain in San Francisco.
It’s been a long climb for Goldson to become an elite-level safety in the NFL. After being a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in 2007 out of Washington, Goldson was a backup safety and special teams player until finally earning a starting job.
Last season was a breakthrough year for Goldson on a team with a new head coach and defensive coordinator and a defense that proved to be the strength of a San Francisco team that went 13-3, won the NFC West and advanced to the NFC Championship Game.
“It’d be a lie if I said it didn’t feel good,” Goldson told reporters in December, after being selected to the Pro Bowl. “But when I came out, I didn’t set myself any goals. It was just about winning. From my years in college, I didn’t have a winning career. I wanted to come to a program and win.”
The 49ers still have several other players who can become unrestricted free agents on March 13: quarterback Alex Smith, cornerback Carlos Rogers, wide receiver Joshua Morgan and guard-center Adam Snyder.
Earlier this week, the 49ers signed outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks to a six-year deal, keeping him off the free-agent market.