SANTA CLARA -- A two-week window has opened for the 49ers to place the franchise tag on All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson, a move that would virtually keep him off the free-agent market for a second straight year.
Goldson is seeking a longer-term commitment than the one-year, $7.45 million contract he'd land as a repeat recipient of the franchise tag. Free agency begins March 12.
If Goldson doesn't return for a seventh season, it would be surprising, as both sides have professed a desire to reach a deal.
If Goldson isn't tagged, he'd join a deeper pool of safeties than in recent offseason markets. That crop currently includes Ed Reed (Baltimore Ravens), Charles Woodson (Green Bay Packers), Jairus Byrd (Buffalo Bills), William Moore (Atlanta Falcons) and LaRon Landry (New York Jets).
"The franchise tag, it's cool. It's not that bad with the money, but everybody wants security," Goldson said Feb. 5, two days after the 49ers lost 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII to the Baltimore Ravens. "In the job that I do, and the position I play, there's a lot that comes with the territory. Security is something that you want at my position, for sure."
Goldson has played the past two seasons under one-year contracts, and he went on to earn Pro Bowl invitations each season. The 49ers had five other defensive starters make this year's Pro Bowl, which they did not play in thanks to their Super Bowl workload.
Coach Jim Harbaugh stumped on Goldson's behalf during a Feb. 5, end-of-season press conference.
"He's somebody that I think you reward," Harbaugh said. "You know he's out there, and opposing offenses know that he's out there. He tackles and does everything that you'd want a safety to do. I feel like you reward those types of people. Who do you reward if you don't reward those types of people?"
Another candidate to receive the 49ers' franchise tag is tight end Delanie Walker, who's versatility overshadows the fact he's started only 40 of 99 games in his seven-year career. The Kansas City Chiefs' Web site recently did a profile of Walker in a series on attractive free agents. The Chiefs also could be a logical trade partner for Alex Smith.
Other 49ers headed for unrestricted free agency are wide receivers Randy Moss and Ted Ginn Jr.; nose tackles Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois; linebackers Larry Grant and Clark Haggans; and, offensive lineman Leonard Davis.
Goldson, a fourth-round draft pick in 2007, stands to be latest homegrown player to receive a multi-year contract from the 49ers. Others who've secured such deals under general manager Trent Baalke are: linebackers NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks, defensive tackle Ray McDonald, running back Frank Gore, offensive lineman Alex Boone, and quarterback Alex Smith, whose three-year deal last March hasn't assured his return this year.
Goldson started every game the past season, and all three of his interceptions came in the regular season. He forced two fumbles, including one in a playoff-opening win against the Green Bay Packers.
"I don't see why I wouldn't be around," Goldson said Jan. 30, amid preparations for Super Bowl XLVII. "Those guys understand what I've done, and how can you say I don't deserve anything I might receive."
Goldson last tested free agency in 2011. He considered an offer from the New England Patriots before returning to the 49ers during training camp on a one-year, $2 million deal.
Goldson has literally paid for his physical nature, at the tune of nearly $70,000 over the past three season. He got docked $21,000 in December for what the NFL deemed was his third fine-warranted hit that season, and it came against Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.