SANTA CLARA Dashon Goldson didn't mince words last month when he said he didn't want to be stuck with the franchise tag for a second consecutive year.
"I felt that they wanted me to prove myself, and I think I did just that," the 49ers safety said as he was cleaning out his locker two days after the Super Bowl. "So if I was in the position again with the franchise tag, I'd be very surprised."
Goldson got his wish Monday and escaped the franchise tag it would have meant a one-year deal worth $7.45 million but it's unknown if the 49ers or any other team will give him the long-term contract he desires.
The 49ers currently have $1 million in salary cap space. They will gain $9.75 million more when they trade quarterback Alex Smith later this month, and there would be another $3 million in savings by releasing kicker David Akers, which is expected.
Still, the 49ers already have given long-term contracts to several defensive players Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks among them in recent years, and there has been little progress yet in the negotiations with Goldson.
In the past two years, Goldson has sought a deal similar to the one safety Eric Weddle signed with the Chargers in 2011 five years for $40 million. The 49ers have refused to match that, a stalemate that continues today.
San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke would not get into specifics at the scouting combine last month, but he did say this about his free-agent class: "It's all about value, making sure you get the right value on players. You can't pay everybody, and you certainly can't pay everybody if you're overpaying others."
The 49ers want to work a long-term deal with tight end Delanie Walker, another key contributor last season, who also appears poised to test free agency. They'd also like to re-sign one of their two free-agent nose tackles, Ricky Jean Francois and Isaac Sopoaga.
Beyond that, they could stand to sign a defensive lineman, wide receiver or cornerback in free agency. Defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, released by the Eagles last month, will visit the 49ers today.
They also have some pricey contracts to consider in future seasons.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is signed for two more years and can begin discussing an extension at the end of next season. Cornerback Tarell Brown and defensive end Justin Smith have only one more year on their contracts; wide receiver Michael Crabtree and linebacker Aldon Smith have two seasons remaining.
Baalke said the 49ers also were examining contract extensions for a few players.
"But it takes both sides to be able to come together on a number," he said. "And sometimes you're able to do that, and sometimes you're not. We're going to work hard at it, be diligent at it, but we're also going to make sure we make good decisions."
Goldson has been one of the top safeties in the league the past two seasons, finishing with nine interceptions during that span and at times acting like a third inside linebacker against the opponent's running game.
He was named to the Pro Bowl and, for the first time, the All-Pro squad for 2012.
After the Super Bowl, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Goldson was one of the players who "deserved" to be rewarded with a long-term deal. Goldson said he wanted the security of such a contract but would look beyond San Francisco if necessary.
"Somewhere, anywhere," Goldson said. "Hopefully, it will be here, but I'm open to all 32 teams."