49ers' options for replacing Goldson if he leaves

Published: Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2013 - 8:15 am

SAFETY VALVES

If the 49ers lose safety Dashon Goldson, here's a look at how they might replace him:

• C.J. Spillman: He is every bit as hard-hitting and aggressive as Goldson, and the 49ers have used him in goal-line and short-yardage situations the past two years. He got a lot of practice with the first-team defense in 2011, when Goldson was shopping himself in free agency and Reggie Smith was hurt. However, Spillman lacks game-day experience and to this point has been more of a tackler/enforcer than a player who understands the nuances of coverage.

• Darcel McBath: He's a restricted free agent this year who has a history with defensive backs coach Ed Donatell. McBath mostly was limited to special teams last season. But it's noteworthy that when Goldson had to briefly leave a game, McBath replaced him. The 49ers are likely to use the lowest possible tender to retain McBath for one more season. He was a second-round pick by Denver in 2009.

• Trenton Robinson: The team's 2012 sixth-round pick mostly spent his rookie campaign learning. He garnered high praise from coach Jim Harbaugh at the scouting combine – really, though, when has Harbaugh ever not dunked one of his players in praise? – and showed a nose for the football at Michigan State. He's small for the position (5-foot-9, 193 pounds), which would make for a decidedly short safety tandem with Donte Whitner (5-10, 208).

• Michael Thomas: He spent last season on the 49ers' practice squad but garnered interest from other squads by the end of the season. Like Robinson, Thomas is sub-6-foot, but as you would expect from a Stanford product, he's also very smart. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio coached Thomas at Stanford and likes him.

• Other options: The safety position is solid in free agency and the draft, which perhaps is why the 49ers feel secure in allowing Goldson to test the open market. It includes one of the two best safeties in the last decade and a half, Baltimore's Ed Reed, as well as several college players expected to go in the first or second rounds such as Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, LSU's Eric Reid, Florida's Matt Elam and South Carolina's D.J. Swearinger.

Read Matthew Barrows' blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers and listen for his reports Tuesdays on ESPN Radio 1320. Follow him on Twitter @mattbarrows.

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