"He's somebody that I think you reward," Harbaugh said Tuesday following his final team meeting of the season before players parted ways. "You know he's out there and opposing offenses know that he's out there. He tackles and does everything that you'd want a safety to do. I feel like you reward those type of people. Who do you reward if you don't reward those type of people?"
The 28-year-old Goldson has played on one-year contracts the past two seasons, including the 2012 franchise tag of $6.2 million, and made it clear he's "not for that" again. He had 69 tackles, three interceptions and a forced fumble this season as San Francisco returned to the Super Bowl for the first time in 18 years.
Goldson was among the players scheduled to meet with general manager Trent Baalke on Tuesday as they packed up their lockers and headed out for the offseason following Sunday's 34-31 loss to Baltimore in New Orleans.
Goldson has seen plenty of others in his own locker room receive lengthy deals. In late November, linebacker NaVorro Bowman got a five-year extension through the 2018 season worth $45.25 million, with $25.5 million in guaranteed money.
"I think he deserved what he got.
For now, he's not going to worry too much and let his agent handle negotiations.
"I'm just staying positive. I'm where I want to be. I was in this position before and I got my hopes up and it didn't work out the way I wanted it to," he said. "But for me to come back, I feel like they wanted me to prove myself—again. And I think I did just that. So if I was able to be in this situation again with the franchise tag, I'd be very surprised.
"There's no security in it. I've been in this league now six years, going on seven. I think I've done what I've had to do to deserve a second contract, period."
When asked whether keeping Goldson for the long haul is among his top priorities, Harbaugh said, "I think that's very fair to say."
If the runner-up Niners (13-5-1) don't end up offering Goldson what he wants so he can stay put where he prefers, he said Tuesday he would pursue opportunities with any of the other NFL teams.
"I'm not expecting anything. Somewhere. Anywhere. Hopefully, it will be this team. But I'm open to all 32 teams," Goldson said.
Fellow safety Donte Whitner is optimistic the 49ers will do their best to again keep San Francisco's stingy defense together and try for another special postseason run next season.
"I want Dashon back. We all know that we need him," Whitner said. "I don't know how everybody else around here feels. The players know we need him. I know the coaches know we need him. If we want to keep this thing together and we want to make another run at it, we need to keep the good players, keep the Pro Bowl players we have here. That's what you have to do everywhere. That's what the Pittsburgh Steelers always did when they were winning and making a run at it."
The 49ers missed a chance to match the Steelers for most championships with six.
There are other pressing matters as San Francisco heads into another offseason with the sting of coming so close. Like what to do with backup quarterback Alex Smith.
Smith, who lost his starting job in November to Colin Kaepernick, did not make an appearance in the locker room during the portion open to the media Tuesday but very well could be leaving for good. A large box of his belongings was being packed—including the game ball he received from the season-opening win at Green Bay and a couple of others, along with a half-dozen 49ers hats.
Smith is guaranteed $1 million from the 49ers, and that would become $8.5 million guaranteed—his 2013 salary—if he is still on the roster on April 1. San Francisco still could trade him after that day, with another team likely picking up his salary.
"Alex is a true professional, went through something tough, probably the toughest time in his career after coming off a successful season," Whitner said. "I wish Alex the best. He was a great teammate, if this is his last time leaving. I know he'll go and use the situation this year and what he's been through to fuel him to go out there and get wins and push his team to the playoffs. I truly believe that, I truly believe there's something out there for Alex. I truly believe he can be a great quarterback in the National Football League. He showed it last year, and I wish him the best of luck."
Wideout Randy Moss made his exit without a word Tuesday. He said last week ahead of the Super Bowl that he wants to play another season, but certainly wants more of a role than he had in San Francisco. He expressed that to Harbaugh.
"In a competitive way, yes, he wants to be involved," Harbaugh said. "We talked about it many times. It's all been positive."
Several players were still hurting from Sunday's result. Running back Frank Gore insists he won't watch the game film—ever.
"I don't want to watch it," he said. "It's over. It didn't come out our way. We didn't come out on top. I'm just sad. I'm down. But we still had a great year."
Notes: DL Justin Smith will undergo surgery this week on his partially torn left triceps muscle. "It's months, two to three months," Harbaugh said of the recovery period. ... WR Michael Crabtree left with a couple of his Super Bowl nameplates as souvenirs. "My news is over. The season's over," Crabtree said, noting he will "chill. I don't have anything else to do."... WR A.J. Jenkins, the team's first-round draft pick in 2012, plans to train with Kaepernick in Atlanta.
AP Sports Writer Antonio Gonzalez contributed to this story.