The San Francisco 49ers travel to the Sunshine State take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. This marks the first time the 49ers will face their former Pro Bowl safety, Dashon Goldson. This past offseason 49ers GM Trent Baalke faced a tough decision on Goldson: pay or let walk? Baalke decided to do the latter, in no small part due to two large salaries at the inside linebacker position and two young players — Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick — that are about to receive large paydays (assuming Smith still gets his, eventually, after his substance abuse issues).
Goldson played phenomenally for San Francisco the past couple of years, and replacing him seemed a very tall order. Many 49er fans and NFL experts expected a significant drop-off in the secondary with his absence. When the 49ers signed Craig Dahl from the St. Louis Rams a collective “uh-oh” seemed to emanate from 49er Faithful everywhere. This great defense finally would start to crumble. With Chris Culliver’s injury, Justin Smith coming off of an injury that hurt his effectiveness, and Carlos Rogers‘ continuous sliding, it seemed like a great defense might revert to simple quite good or even, shall I say, above average.
Fortunately, with a jump of 13 spots in the first round, Baalke proved his worth yet again — he needed to after that whole A.J. Jenkins debacle — with the drafting of a potential defensive rookie of the year in Eric Reid. Reid has played lights-out opposite Donte “Hitner” Whitner. The defense has actually improved with him in the line-up, while Goldson may have some more cash, but is only recently experiencing wins again. Baalke and Jim Harbaugh have done a good job getting this team together. Complain all you want about lack of receiving weapons or defensive line depth, but no team is perfect and the 49ers will hopefully get even better in the next couple of years.