Media outlets both local and national, starting with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and bouncing all the way up to ESPN, have reported that the 49ers are not interested in pursuing safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who became a free agent at midnight last night. Take that as a tacit endorsement of Dashon Goldson.
Atogwe, of course, has an uncommonly intimate relationship with 49ers head coach Mike Singletary. He is dating Singletary’s daughter Jill. Now, we don’t know that the two men are actually fond of one another. It’s entirely possible that Coach Sing can’t stand Atogwe. But he’s never given off that vibe. And you’d have to believe that Singletary’s respect for his daughter, combined with Atogwe’s Stanford education and aggressive style of play, would put him in good standing.
That’s why the safety has been linked to San Francisco ever since the Rams tendered him at a low level in early March. The biggest thing getting in the way of the move: Goldson.
The 49ers seem to have good depth at safety, but with Michael Lewis a little past his prime and Taylor Mays probably years short of his, the team might have leapt at Atogwe if it didn’t have confidence in Goldson. The then-third-year player’s strong run down the stretch last season kept him in the Niners’ plans. He’s still just 25.
But with the vote of confidence comes a challenge. The 49ers chose not to replace Goldson with Atogwe. Now it’s his turn to prove that he can lock up the position and justify their faith.
Certainly, Goldson has more than loyalty to consider. He is now in the final year of his contract, slated to make a bargain-rate $550,000 in 2010. If he shows progress on the practice field, the 49ers will be tempted to extend his contract (after they take care of tight end Vernon Davis). And if the team waits too long, Goldson can set up a big payday – from the 49ers or from a competitor – with a strong showing during the regular season.
Things could get interesting if Atogwe, who is coming off of major shoulder surgery, lingers on the open market. If his price tag drops, would the 49ers come into play? Or will the Rams reel him back in? That’s all speculation. For now, the Niners seem set with Goldson, Lewis, Mays, Reggie Smith, Curtis Taylor and Chris Maragos.
Goldson has received his mission papers. His response will determine his financial future.