In the summer before he entered sixth grade, Dashon Goldson took his birthday money to the park across the street where he signed himself up to play for the Tri-City Falcons youth football team in Harbor City, Calif.
On Tuesday, the 49ers All-Pro boarded a private jet charted by the Buccaneers and flew across the country to Tampa Bay where he could become among the highest-paid safeties in the NFL today.
Emboldened by being more than $30 million under the salary cap, the Bucs plan to use their riches to improve the poorest pass defense in the league.
In addition to hoping to sign Goldson, 28, to a multi-year contract that could fetch close to $8 million per year, multiple reports indicated the Bucs have an offer on the table to trade for Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.
No agreement had been reached by late Tuesday in what promises to be a complex deal for the former AFC defensive player of the year, 27.
Revis is in the final year of his contract. The Jets are believed to be seeking a first-round pick. Even if the teams agree on draft compensation, the Bucs would have to reach a contract extension with Revis, who wants $15 million to $16 million per year despite playing in only two games last season because of a torn ACL in his left knee.
Not unlike a year ago, when the Bucs signed free agents Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Eric Wright, they were trying to strike quick deals with marquee players Tuesday. The Bucs sent a private jet to California for Goldson, who arrived in Tampa late Tuesday.
Goldson was a key component to the 49ers' NFC championship team last season and is known as an enforcer with ball skills. He had 69 tackles with three interceptions and a forced fumble in 2012 and was named to his second straight NFC Pro Bowl team.
Goldson, who has 14 career interceptions, would replace Ronde Barber at free safety and could usher the end to Barber's Hall of Fame-worthy career.
Barber met with Bucs coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik on Thursday and was offered a chance to remain with the team for a 17th season. But he was told at the time that the Bucs planned to sign a veteran safety during free agency.
Barber, who turns 38 in April, said Friday he would take some time to decide whether to play or contemplate retirement.
The Bucs lost five of their final six games to finish 7-9 in the first year under Schiano. They were just 38 yards shy of tying the mark for the worst pass defense in NFL history, allowing 4,758 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.
When healthy, Revis has been the league's best shutdown cornerback with 18 of his 19 career interceptions coming in his first five seasons before the injury. The five-time Pro Bowl cornerback also has some advocates on the Bucs coaching staff. Dave Wannstedt, Tampa Bay's special teams coordinator, was his head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Safeties coach Jeff Hafley was Revis' position coach with the Panthers.
Furthermore, Dominik and new Jets GM John Idzik worked together in Tampa Bay's front office for six seasons.
"Things are jingling in the football world today. #theracebegins," Goldson tweeted Monday, the eve of free agency.
Goldson played under one-year contracts the past two seasons. He earned AP first-team All-Pro honors playing under the franchise tag in 2012. The 49ers opted not to tag him this year at a cost of $7.45 million.
Agent Ben Dogra, who also represents Goldson, said the Bucs remain interested in Falcons free agent cornerback Brent Grimes, "maybe as a backup to Revis'' if that deal falls apart.
The Bucs also want a quarterback to provide competition for Josh Freeman. The Bucs and Browns have had talks with the Patriots about backup quarterback Ryan Mallet. Tampa Bay also reportedly has an interest in the Colts' Drew Stanton and Chiefs' Matt Cassel.