For the second straight year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made an immediate – and major – move in free agency.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced the signing of former San Francisco 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, an unrestricted free agent as of 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday, to a five-year contract. A two-time Pro Bowler and one of only two safeties to earn Associated Press first-team All-Pro honors in 2012, Goldson was widely considered to be the best available player on the open market at his position.
The same was true last year of wide receiver Vincent Jackson and guard Carl Nicks, both of whom signed with the Buccaneers in the first 24 hours of the 2012 free agency period. Despite making the biggest single-day splash in free agency in team history just a year earlier, the Buccaneers approached the 2013 market with a very favorable cap situation, allowing them once again to pounce on a highly coveted player. In this case, the team also addressed what was obviously a critical area of need, as its top-ranked run defense in 2012 was balanced by a 32nd-ranked pass defense.
Originally a seventh-round pick by the 49ers out of Washington in 2007, Goldson has been a starter the past four seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012. Known as a hard-hitting enforcer in the 49ers' secondary, Goldson also has a knack for the turnover, picking off 14 passes over the past four seasons. His career totals include 346 tackles, 14 interceptions, three sacks, 34 passes defensed and five forced fumbles.
In 2011, Goldson finished tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions, and his nine interceptions over the past two seasons ranks tied for sixth-most in the NFL during that span. In 2012, after having been franchised by San Francisco, Goldson was part of a pass defense that ranked fourth overall in the NFL, allowing only 200.2 passing yards per game. The 49ers also ranked first in the league by allowing 10.31 passing yards per completion and second with 5.13 passing yards allowed per attempt. Opposing quarterbacks finished the season with a 78.0 quarterback, which ranked seventh in the league.
Goldson has also started all five of his playoff game appearances, including Super Bowl XLVII. In the postseason, Goldson has notched 47 tackles, one interception, three passes defensed and one forced fumble.
The addition of the 28-year-old Goldson gives the Buccaneers one of the most talented safety tandems in the NFL, as he joins 2012 first-round pick Mark Barron at the back end of the defense. The team has also told Ronde Barber, a five-time Pro Bowler and last year's starter at free safety, that it would like him to return for another season in 2013.
After his first Pro Bowl appearance following the 2011 season, Goldson was given the franchise tag for the 49ers. He played on the resulting one-year contract in 2012, joining Seattle's Earl Thomas as the two AP All-Pro safeties, then became an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday. The Bucs jumped at the chance to add a complete safety who can cover a significant amount of ground in centerfield while also providing big hits on a regular basis.