SANTA CLARA — Dashon Goldson didn't mince words last month when he said 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 — linebackers 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 asking price, a stalemate that continues today.
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 from the 2012 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, a receiver or a 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 each on their contracts; receiver Michael Crabtree and linebacker Aldon Smith have two more 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."
As for Goldson, he was 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 both the Pro Bowl and, for the first time, the All-Pro squad for 2012.