SANTA CLARA The 49ers on Thursday offered an example of how they'll conduct business in coming years.
In March, they allowed a pricey veteran, safety Dashon Goldson, to sign elsewhere in free agency. In April, they replaced him in the draft.
San Francisco traded up 13 slots in the first round for LSU safety Eric Reid, who at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds will be expected to take over Goldson's longtime role as the team's enforcer out of the secondary.
The 49ers sent the 31st overall pick and the first of their two third-round selections, No. 74 overall, to the Cowboys for the right to take Reid at No. 18.
"We feel good about his ability to insert and play a physical brand of football," said general manager Trent Baalke. "Heady ballplayer. He triggers fast on the run; he reacts well to the pass. It's about learning the angles to the pro game and learning the speed of the pro game. But we feel very confident he's going to be able to do that and do it quickly."
A bonus for the 49ers Reid, 21, already was very familiar to coach Jim Harbaugh, who recruited him heavily to play at Stanford.
Harbaugh said he figured he'd have a hard time convincing Eric Reid Sr., a three-time All-American hurdler at LSU, that his son should go to school in California. But he thought he had an in with the player's mother, Sharon, who stressed academics to her son and who exchanged a number of emails with Harbaugh four years ago.
The younger Reid, who was was born in Baton Rouge and was rated the state's top defensive player in high school, said he "bled purple and gold" and ultimately chose his hometown university. Still, he noted that Stanford was the only team that recruited him as energetically as LSU.
"The story comes full circle that he ended up drafting me," a jubilant Reid said by phone from New York.
Said Harbaugh: "This time, Eric had no choice in the matter, and it feels good to have him."
One of the traits he likes about Reid, Harbaugh said, is his smarts.
"He was a very, very fine student," he said. "That was something that was important to his mother, so I felt like we had a shot."
It's also important to Reid.
Asked to describe himself, Reid said "cerebral." He was a member of the Southeastern Conference's all-academic team the past two seasons.
"I pride myself on knowing the defense," he said. "I pride myself on being able to get the guys lined up on the team, and being a great teammate and also doing my job."
Reid said his mother hoped he would be picked by the 49ers.
Why? Because Sharon Reid is a traveling nurse who makes regular trips to San Jose. The 49ers' practice facility is just a few miles away in Santa Clara, and the team will begin playing its home games there in 2014.
"She's been going back and forth to California since I was in middle school," he said.
The selection offers a glimpse about how the 49ers will try to sustain a strong roster in the future.
The team is pressed against the salary cap, and it has a number of key contributors including quarterback Colin Kaepernick due for new contracts in coming years. The 49ers won't be able to keep all of those players, and the plan is to replenish through the draft.
Last month, for example, Goldson signed a five-year, $41.25 million contract with the Buccaneers. The 49ers, in turn, signed ex-Rams safety Craig Dahl to a modest three-year deal worth $5 million. As it stands, Dahl is penciled in as a starting safety with Donte Whitner, but Reid will be expected to take over from Dahl at some point.
Other safeties on the roster include C.J. Spillman, Darcel McBath, Michael Thomas and 2012 sixth-round selection Trenton Robinson.
THE NEWEST 49ER
Selected: 18th (first round)
Height, weight: 6-2, 210
Comment: The 49ers needed to replace Dashon Goldson in the starting lineup, and true to form, general manager Trent Baalke traded up to get his man. Like Goldson, Reid has a reputation as a big hitter out of the secondary.
General manager Trent Baalke says: "He's a prototype safety in terms of size. He's got good length, long arms.
He's smart, he's tough, he's a physical player, and we really felt he was an all-around safety."
Join Matthew Barrows today at 11 a.m. to discuss the 49ers, followed by Jason Jones at noon to discuss the Raiders. Let us know what you think.