SANTA CLARA The 49ers went with frugality over flash Saturday, signing former St. Louis Ram Craig Dahl to a three-year, $5 million deal and giving him license to take over Dashon Goldson's old position at safety.
"They told me that there was an opportunity to play in the voided safety position in the secondary," said Dahl, 27. "I'm hoping to come in here and mesh well with the secondary and fill that void."
The 49ers also have had their eye on 15-year veteran Charles Woodson, who met with the 49ers on Wednesday. Dahl's modest deal he also received an $800,000 signing bonus does not preclude the team from adding Woodson, 36. But it is more evidence they will not spend a lot at the position.
Veteran Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, for instance, has been mentioned in conjunction with the 49ers. Reed reportedly is seeking at least $5 million a year the Houston Texans and Ravens are vying for him and the 49ers likely won't join the bidding.
Dahl said he wouldn't mind if more players are added.
"I'm always open to competition," he said. "The team that's progressing is always bringing in guys for competition."
The 49ers have signed several defensive players to big-money deals in recent years, and there are more young stars Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith and Michael Crabtree, for example who will be seeking long-term extensions in the next two years.
At the scouting combine last month, general manager Trent Baalke said the team couldn't afford to pay everybody, "and you certainly can't pay everybody if you're overpaying others."
Dahl is now part of a mix at safety that includes special-teams standout C.J. Spillman, 2012 sixth-round draft choice Trenton Robinson and Michael Thomas, who went undrafted out of Stanford last year.
With 14 draft picks next month, the 49ers also could take a safety, a position that is considered strong, especially at the end of the first round and through the second.
The 49ers like Dahl's smarts and the fact he already is well-versed with the NFC West offenses. That puts him in an excellent spot to be a mentor if the 49ers used a high selection on a safety.
"It helps me out that I was able to play against most of what we have in the NFC West last year," Dahl said. "Russell Wilson poses a big threat in Seattle. Here with Kaepernick leading the reins he'll do good things for us and the offense in the future."
The 6-foot-1, 212-pound Dahl played at North Dakota State, where Baalke used to be an assistant coach. Dahl was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the New York Giants in 2007.
He spent the last four years in St. Louis, where he started 40 games and made four interceptions over that span. Last season, he started all 16 games, making one interception and 78 tackles, fifth-most on the team.