Niners in free agency: Analyzing the moves

Dashon Goldson bolts for the big money in Tampa Bay, Craig Dahl arrives from St. Louis to at least temporarily fill the void. Isaac Sopoaga out at nose tackle, Glenn Dorsey in. With the first major wave of free agency over, the 49ers may have lost more than they gained, and here's a look at the newcomers and where they fit in, along with those who departed and the voids they left in their wake.

The newcomers


Phil Dawson: It was just two years ago that the 49ers made a big free-agent signing of an aging kicker with a distinguished past, and it worked out great in 2011 when David Akers had a record-shattering season while earning first-team All-Pro honors and leading the Niners into the NFC Championship Game. But Akers struggled mightily down the stretch last season and into the playoffs to the point the 49ers no longer could count on him. The team made a swift decision to move on from Akers earlier this month, then opted to replace him with another 38-year-old kicker in Dawson. But the Niners only had to commit one year to Dawson, signing him to a $2.25 million deal with a $1 million signing bonus, which makes this a solid move for the Niners, considering Dawson is coming off a tremendous Pro Bowl season and still seems to have plenty left in his right leg despite his advancing age. Dawson was 29 of 31 on field goal-attempts last season in his 14th year with the Cleveland Browns, making all 13 of his attempts from beyond 40 yards and all seven of his boots from 50-plus yards. It's tough to argue with that. Dawson is the ninth-most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history (84 percent) and he was a team leader and strong presence in the Cleveland locker room as one of the team's most popular players. For a veteran kicker in the short term, the 49ers couldn't have done much better than to land Dawson, who may have enough left to handle their kicking duties beyond 2013.

Glenn Dorsey: One of the most heralded prospects of the 2008 NFL draft, Dorsey has never quite lived up to his status as the No. 5 overall selection that year due to injuries and other circumstances. But he started 46 of Kansas City's 48 games the past three years along the defensive line and brings some versatility to play all three positions along the front of San Francisco's 3-4 defensive scheme. At 6-foot-2 and 316 pounds, Dorsey has the size to hold up at nose tackle, even if that is not his most natural position. The question is if he can consistently clog the middle and hold up blockers if and when the Niners ask him to play that position and fill the void left by the departure of Sopoaga, who was solid performing that role for the team for the past several seasons.

Craig Dahl: Not a flashy, hard-hitting playmaker like Goldson, Dahl is more of a smooth and consistent performer who knows his job and sticks to his assignments at free safety. Dahl, an unheralded and undrafted prospect coming out of North Dakota State in 2007, had gradually established himself as serviceable safety while starting 32 games with the Rams over the past three seasons. He started all 16 games last season and had 78 tackles while returning his only interception 38 yards. Those numbers pale in comparison to Goldson's contributions, but Goldson was more of a risk-taker who could be caught out of position and had a propensity for penalties with his aggressive style. With a rugged hitter at strong safety in Donte Whitner, the Niners may be looking for more assignment-true, coverage-conscious production at free safety. Dahl – who was given a $700,000 signing bonus by the Niners as part of his three-year, $5.25 million deal – won't just be handed this job. He'll have to battle the 49ers' young holdovers at the position and perhaps another prospect the 49ers will add to the roster later in free agency or the draft.

Dan Skuta: The signing of the four-year veteran to a two-year, $3 million deal with a $300,000 signing bonus is an indication the 49ers would like to shore up their special teams with a guy who led the Cincinnati Bengals with 17 tackles on those units last season. Skuta is in the mold of Blake Costanzo, an anchor of San Francisco's great special teams production in 2011 who was missed last season after he signed with the Chicago Bears. Skuta, who had 26 tackles while filling in at linebacker last season, also has the versatility to fit in with the linebacker duties in San Francisco's 3-4 defensive scheme.

Marlon Moore: The 49ers signed Moore to a one-year deal after he was not tendered by the Miami Dolphins as a restricted free agent, and he'll get a shot to earn a supporting role behind San Francisco's front-line wideouts in a revamped receiver corps that will be without Ted Ginn Jr. and Randy Moss this year. Undrafted out of Fresno State in 2010, Moore has had a marginal career as a receiver so far with 12 receptions for 244 yards and two TDs in three years with the Dolphins. But his 20.3 receiving average suggests deep-threat potential, and he'll be given a shot with the Niners to see if he can take the next step at the position.

Restricted market


Tramaine Brock: The 49ers tendered the fourth-year veteran a one-year deal at $1.323 million with no compensation to return for another season of competing for a role in San Francisco's secondary and special teams. Brock was solid in his role as a special teams gunner last season and had a career-high 15 tackles on those units last season, which tied for the team lead. Brock also had a team-high 681 special teams points in a formula devised by coaches to determine production on those units. He also saw spot duty in coverage packages on defense last season after recording a career-high two interceptions in 2011.

The departures


Dashon Goldson: A Pro Bowler in 2011 and 2012 and a first-team All-Pro last season, Goldson opted for the big money from the Buccaneers, who lavished him with a five-year, $41.25 million deal with $22 million guaranteed – the kind of deal Goldson had coveted from the 49ers since he emerged years ago as an effective starter. Despite his big plays and star quality, Goldson was not worth that kind of money to the 49ers and they had no intention of paying it to him. To be sure, his departure leaves a void at free safety, where Goldson set the tone with his aggressive play and quick-striking decisions. Whether Dahl is the answer there remains to be seen.

Delanie Walker: The jack-of-all-trades veteran will be missed by offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who got optimum use out of Walker's versatility that saw him lining up in several different positions and performing several different roles within San Francisco's scheme. The Niners would have liked to have Walker back, but with big money invested in Vernon Davis, San Francisco couldn't afford to pay starter's money to a No. 2 tight end, which is what Walker got from the Tennessee Titans, who signed him to a four-year, $17.5 million deal that the Niners simply couldn't compete with.

Isaac Sopoaga: An effective cog in San Francisco's premier defensive front over the past several seasons, Sopoaga's impact declined last year when he played in only 30 percent of San Francisco's defensive snaps. The Niners didn't appear inclined to make a serious push to retain the services of the 31-year-old Sopoaga, who got good money from the Philadelphia Eagles, who inked him to a three-year, $11 million deal.

Ricky Jean Francois: The four-year veteran has been an effective role player for the 49ers as a backup along their defensive front and made a steady contribution in the defensive line rotation. At the same time, he isn't a player that couldn't be replaced. Jean Francois got a four-year, $22 million deal with $8.5 million guaranteed from the Indianapolis Colts, and you can be sure the 49ers had no intention of paying him anything close to that figure.

Ted Ginn Jr.: Ginn will always have value as a dangerous return specialist, but that had become his only function last season with the 49ers, who seldom used him as a receiver despite their depth problems at the position. Ginn wasn't always reliable fielding kicks last season, either, and the Niners made little effort to retain his services before Ginn signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers.


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