At long last, Bucs get safety they wanted

TAMPA, Fla. -- Almost a year after first expressing interest in safety Dashon Goldson, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally got him.

The Bucs and Goldson agreed to terms on a five-year deal worth $41.25 million on Wednesday afternoon. In the news conference to announce the deal, general manager Mark Dominik admitted that the Bucs contemplated a move to get Goldson when he was carrying the franchise tag with San Francisco last year. Dominik said those talks came before last year’s draft, but a deal didn’t transpire.

This time around the Bucs didn’t have to deal with the franchise tag, and they went all-out in their pursuit of the two-time Pro Bowl safety. As soon as free agency opened Tuesday afternoon, Goldson was on a flight to Tampa. He spent Tuesday night and most of the day Wednesday meeting with team officials.

“We always try to find unique and rare opportunities when you can add a player like this to your football team," Dominik said.

In signing Goldson, the Bucs followed a similar path to what they did last year when they spent big on guard Carl Nicks and receiver Vincent Jackson at the start of free agency. When acquiring those two, Dominik talked about how rarely the opportunity comes to get a Pro Bowl-caliber player in his prime.

Goldson, 28, fits that profile. He played a key role in San Francisco's getting to two straight NFC Championship Games and last season’s Super Bowl. But the 49ers weren’t able to keep him because they already had so much salary-cap space committed to their defense.

“This guy is what we want on the Bucs," coach Greg Schiano said.

In other words, Goldson is a tough, hard-nosed football player. His arrival should go a long way in fixing a pass defense that ranked No. 32 in the league last season. In his six-year career, Goldson has 14 interceptions with 443 tackles and five forced fumbles.

Goldson, who went to the University of Washington, said the final pitch in Tampa Bay’s recruiting effort might have come from linebacker Mason Foster, who also played for the Huskies. Goldson said he ran into Foster as he toured the weight room Wednesday and got positive reviews about Schiano and the type of team he’s trying to build.

“The energy around this building comes off as nothing but positive,’’ Goldson said.

With Goldson, the Bucs now have a lot invested at safety. Goldson will start opposite Mark Barron, last year’s first-round pick, and Schiano said the two safeties are interchangeable. Veteran Ronde Barber started at free safety last year. The Bucs have told Barber they want him back for another season, likely as a third safety or nickel cornerback.

Barber is pondering his future and Dominik and Schiano said they’ll figure out his exact role if and when the time comes.

But, on Wednesday, all the emphasis was on Goldson.

“I definitely see potential here," Goldson said. “This is the correct fit. I really and truly believe that."