The 49ers held onto another key, young member of their 2011 defense Friday when they placed the franchise tag on free safety Dashon Goldson.
That designation effectively keeps Goldson, 27, off the free-agent market later this month by offering him a one-year contract equivalent to the average of the top-five highest-paid safeties the past five seasons, a number expected to be $6.2 million.
Teams can continue to negotiate long-term deals with their franchised players until July 16, and 49ers general manager Trent Baalke indicated that would take place with Goldson and his new agent, Ben Dogra.
“Dashon has been a 49er since we selected him in the fourth round of the 2007 draft,” Baalke said in a statement. “By using the franchise tag on Dashon, it affords us the opportunity to continue to work on a long-term contract with him, while also ensuring he will be a 49er for a sixth season, in 2012.”
Goldson had the best season of his career in 2011, finishing the regular season with six interceptions and picking off the Saints’ Drew Brees during the 49ers’ divisional playoff win.
He has long been a logical choice for the franchise tag given the fact that the 49ers had trouble signing him to a long-term contract last year and because the franchise number for safeties is lower than any other offensive and defensive position save tight end.
Another soon-to-be free agent the 49ers would like to have back, cornerback Carlos Rogers, has a franchise tag number of $10.6 million. Ahmad Brooks, 27, who signed a six-year deal earlier this week, would have had a tag number of $8.8 million.
By giving Goldson the franchise tag, the 49ers have secured three of their pending free agents _ Brooks and safety C.J. Spillman are the others – for the 2012 season.
Spillman, who signed a three-year contract extension last week, is being eyed as the top backup at safety next season.
That’s partly because Goldson’s designation makes it less likely that two other soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent safeties, Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams, will be back with the 49ers.
Smith, a former third-round pick, would have started at free safety this past season if Goldson had not made an unexpected return to the team after being disappointed with the free-agent market. Williams, meanwhile, also saw his role decrease upon Goldson’s return. Both he and Smith will be looking for bigger roles when free agency begins March 13.
Players generally don’t like the franchise tag because it comes in lieu of the long-term contracts – and long-term security – they are seeking. The last player the 49ers franchised, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, did not sign his franchise tender until the middle of the 2010 preseason and missed all of the offseason practices and activities until that point.
Goldson had an opportunity to sign a long-term contract last year.
The 49ers offered him a five-year, $25 million contract last but it was rejected by Goldson and his then-agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who were seeking a contract that would have made Goldson one of the highest-paid safeties in the league.
Rosenhaus continued to shop Goldson on the open market, including to the Patriots, but he never received the desired offer and Goldson ended up signing a one-year deal with the 49ers instead. Goldson parted ways with Rosenhaus last month and signed Dogra, who represents several high-profile 49ers, including Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith.
The 49ers continue to negotiate with their other pending free agents, including Rogers and quarterback Alex Smith.