Before last April, the Buccaneers had never spent a first-round draft pick – let alone a top-10 selection – on a safety. It’s also safe to say that the team has never made such a significant free agency investment in a safety, with very minor apologies to Sean Jones and Charles Mincy, as it did on Tuesday.
Then along came Alabama’s Mark Barron with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 draft, followed by veteran All-Pro Dashon Goldson on a five-year free agency deal that was inked on Wednesday. Suddenly, the team has significant resources allotted to the back end of their defense, and a safety tandem that could quickly develop into one of the NFL’s best.
Best of all, Barron and Goldson have years and years to grow together and become dual enforcers in the Buccaneers’ secondary. Barron signed his own five year deal last summer before the start of training camp, as the Bucs envisioned building a new hard-hitting defense around him, Gerald McCoy, Adrian Clayborn, Lavonte David, Mason Foster and the rest.
Goldson, who spent six seasons with the 49ers, steadily working his way up from reserve to starter to Pro Bowler to All-Pro, thinks he can help Barron follow a similar progression.
“I think [we’ll fit together] very well,” said Goldson. “I was actually taking a look at his style of play on film, and I think we’ll complement each other back there. I was fortunate to play with Donte Whitner and a couple guys, Michael Lewis, guys like this, but he’s a young stud. He’s young, and I think I can definitely help mold him into the kind of guy he wants to be, from a leadership standpoint and my style of play.”
The last game Goldson played for the 49ers was Super Bowl XLVII, and he came within eight yards of winning a championship ring. He had seen his squad 5-11 his rookie season in 2007 to middle of the pack in his first year as a starter in 2009 to the playoffs and the NFC’s best record in 2011. The 49ers took the penultimate step last year, getting to the Super Bowl, and Goldson says he can share with Barron what it takes to make that happen in Tampa.
“It took a lot of work, and just consistency,” he said. “It’s hard work and preparation every week. When we came into our success the year before last, we were pretty much the targets after that, but being ahead of the game and understanding that having the target on our back was going to be our identity from that point on.”
As for how the two will fit together schematically in the Bucs’ defense, Head Coach Greg Schiano says there plenty of options because both players are versatile enough to play free and strong safety.
“I really think that’s the way we do it,” said Schiano. “Depending on which formation it is, guys do both things. The one thing that I know is I’ve watched both of these guys do both of those [jobs] well. That’s why we as a coaching staff really feel comfortable that we can do a lot of different things with these guys.”