TAMPA — It took a little convincing — and a pile of money — to persuade Dashon Goldson to leave the golden glow of the defending NFC champion 49ers and move three time zones to sign with the Bucs, who haven't made the playoffs since 2007 (the year he came into the league).
"I was encouraged that we recruited him hard enough to get him on the first flight," general manager Mark Dominik said of the charter Goldson took to Tampa on Tuesday. "There were times I was nervous and wondering if we were able to make this come together."
While Goldson needed a sales pitch, the Bucs long have been sold on the two-time Pro Bowl free safety. In fact, Dominik said he tried to trade for him prior to April's draft.
"We had ammunition and everything," Dominik said.
The Bucs signed Goldson on Wednesday to a five-year, $41.25 million contract ($22 million guaranteed).
The Bucs believe the 2012 All-Pro will help patch a secondary that allowed the most passing yards in the NFL last season.
"I think he was one of the gems of this entire free agent class," Dominik said. "I think he's viewed, unilaterally, as one of the best safeties in the National Football League … clearly by the All-Pro, the Pro Bowls."
Goldson, 28, has 14 interceptions over six seasons. Nine came over the past two seasons, when he was named to the Pro Bowl. Before each of those seasons, he signed a one-year deal. In 2012, he played under the franchise tag for $6.2 million.
Goldson said he did his homework on the Bucs.
"I was sitting down with my agent, trying to figure out where was my correct fit, just to my style of play, my mind-set," Goldson said. "Tampa came on my radar."
Goldson will team at safety with Mark Barron, the first-round pick in 2012. Bucs coach Greg Schiano said Goldson will help fortify an aggressive defensive approach while setting an example for younger players.
"Certainly when you watch his tape, you see it as a coach. These are the things you want in your safety," Schiano said. "But as important, when you had a chance to sit down and visit with him … he understands exactly as a head coach what I'm looking for. He's going to come in here and be a leader and be a guy that understands what it takes to be a championship football team."
Goldson's recruitment was reminiscent of the Bucs' wooing of three free agents last year: receiver Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks and cornerback Eric Wright.
Jackson had team highs of 72 catches and 1,384 yards (to go with eight touchdowns). Nicks played well until a season-ending foot injury. Wright was suspended for four games by the league for taking a performance-enhancing substance (he said it was Adderall), which voided this coming season's $7.75 million in guarantees.
Dominik said he learned from that experience.
"This was a rare and unique opportunity," he said. "And those have been very successful for us in the past."
Goldson became a little emotional Wednesday when he recounted his journey from a sixth-grader in Harbor City, Calif., who used his birthday money to sign up for football without telling his mother.
"Hard work really pays off," Goldson said. "My journey, I wouldn't say it was rough. But it was a little rocky."
San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis said Goldson will be missed.
"He's passionate about the game of football and his career, and will do anything to help his teammates," Davis said. "He hits harder than anyone I've seen in the game. I'm definitely going to miss him. But he deserves everything that comes his way."
Goldson's signing likely relegates free safety Ronde Barber to a part-time role — if he elects to return for a 17th season.
"We're going to wait and see how Ronde feels," Schiano said. "I'm going to let Ronde make his decision and celebrate Dashon's signing and everything that goes with it."
The Bucs lost five of their final six games to finish 7-9 last season and have missed the playoffs for five straight seasons. Goldson is coming off a Super Bowl appearance and five postseason games over the past two years.
But he said that isn't a big deal after playing four seasons with the 49ers before making the playoffs.
"We started from the bottom," he said. "It didn't happen overnight to get to where we were the past couple of years. I definitely see the potential here."
Linebacker signs: The Bucs reportedly signed linebacker Jonathan Casillas to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million. Casillas, 25, spent his first four seasons with the Saints. In 2012, he made 25 tackles over 14 games (one start).