Sharks, blood and 49ers' free-agent waters

Free safety Dashon Goldson has been with the San Francisco 49ers since 2007. Coach Jim Harbaugh has been with the team since January.

Let's consider how both men are approaching the 2011 season to better understand why Goldson and the 49ers haven't secured a long-term contract extension.

GoldsonMore than a year ago, Goldson fired his agent, hired Drew Rosenhaus and set out to secure the fattest contract he could get. He watched another safety and Rosenhaus client, Antrel Rolle, sign a five-year, $37 million deal with the New York Giants. At the time, Goldson said he saw Rosenhaus as a "shark" who would "smell blood" and leverage the best deal.

"Obviously, they are real patient about it and careful about who they give the money to," Goldson said last offseason, "but I don't see myself not getting a deal done here. I know they respect me and like what I'm doing here and I want to be here, so I'm sure something will work out. I don't think they have a problem paying athletes."

If the 49ers were careful about who they targeted for long-term agreements previously, imagine the level of care as the team breaks in a new coaching staff.

Goldson and Harbaugh have no history together. The 49ers' pass defense was among the worst in the NFL last season. Goldson did not take a big step forward in his development. Meanwhile, the lockout has prevented Harbaugh from getting a better feel for players. Like any new coach, he wants players to prove it to him. He wants to establish a standard, see who meets that standard and then reward players accordingly.

The 49ers have tried to protect themselves. They signed Madieu Williams for experienced depth at safety. They re-signed Ray McDonald to a deal that made him a likely starter at defensive end. They appear prepared to have Isaac Sopoaga play nose tackle.

Another reason to question old assumptions: It's not yet clear what the 49ers' new coaching staff values in its defensive personnel. The new staff might view differently the traits that made Goldson, Franklin or anyone else carry a certain level of value.

The timing does not appear right for Goldson or Franklin to secure the types of deals they wanted, particularly if the market isn't supportive. Shorter-term deals might make more sense for them under the circumstances.