The second in a series of items analyzing one player per NFC West team without a contract for 2011.
NFL seasons: four
Situation: Goldson's status for free agency hinges upon the next labor agreement or whatever system goes into effect in the absence of one. Before 2010, players needed only four seasons to become unrestricted free agents. Goldson could revert to restricted free agency if players need more than four seasons. In that case, the 49ers would probably be able to re-sign him on a relatively modest one-year deal.
Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.: Goldson is better against the run than against the pass. I don't know that he recognizes things exceptionally well from a deep center-field perspective. But with his size, you want him at free safety, not strong safety. He is not a Michael Lewis, not an Adrian Wilson. He is good at a few things, but not great at any and I am not really sure what his niche is. He is an upgrade over what they have had in the past. You can win with him. He is a good player, but I don't think he is a featured player. If you had one more top-20 corner to add to that secondary, all of a sudden he might look a little better. But if you are needing him to make up for deficits on the edges, no. There are a ton of safeties on the market who are better than him. Eric Weddle, Michael Huff, those guys. You might tell him, 'See what you can get, let us know,' and if he can get a big number he goes, but if he comes back, you get him back at your price and everyone is happy.
My thoughts: The 49ers' pass defense was worse than anticipated in 2010. Goldson went into the season with a chance to prove himself worthy of a lucrative long-term deal. He was definitely ascending coming out of his first season as a full-time starter. Goldson failed to continue on that trajectory. It wasn't all his fault, but the season showed that Goldson, unlike elite safeties, was not going to transcend a bad situation. Williamson's point about Goldson needing help at cornerback is well taken. The 49ers addressed the position in the draft, but not early enough to signal they've solved the problem altogether. Keeping Goldson as a restricted free agent would be ideal for San Francisco. The team's new defensive staff could then evaluate him over a full season. Goldson would also have much to prove.