Friday, February 14, 2014

Harbaugh, Kaepernick, Boldin deals are priorities for 49ers

As the San Francisco 49ers try to get back to the Super Bowl and win it, they’ve got some offseason business to deal with.

Their priority list contains at least three names:  Jim Harbaugh, Colin Kaepernick, and Anquan Boldin.

Per a league source, the plans will come into better focus after next week’s Scouting Combine.  For now, the goal is to extend Harbaugh and Kaepernick, and to keep Boldin, a looming free agent.

The 49ers and Harbaugh tried to work out an extension to the original five-year deal inked in 2011 last year, but an agreement wasn’t reached.  After reports linked Harbaugh to the vacancy at Texas that ultimately was filled by Charlie Strong, it became clear that the 49ers intend to sign Harbaugh to a new deal.

The biggest impediment could be his financial expectations.  With his brother, John, making in the neighborhood of $7 million in Baltimore, Jim may want as much or more.  There’s also speculation that Jim may want more say over personnel, given reports that emerged last season regarding friction between Harbaugh and G.M. Trent Baalke.

As to Kaepernick, it won’t be easy to apply a fair value.  He’s entering the final year of a 2011 second-round rookie contract, due to earn a base salary of $973,766 in 2014.  The top of the market pays $20 million or more per year.  In 2015, Kaepernick would be eligible for a one-year franchise tag in the range of $16 million.  With performances that ping-pong between average and Pro Bowl-caliber, it could be hard for Kaepernick and the 49ers to assess the right value for a multi-year, especially in light of the salary cap, which continues to grow at a rate slower than the top of the quarterback market.

Boldin becomes the biggest potential conundrum.  Traded to San Fran after declining to cut his $6 million salary by a third to stay with the Ravens, the 33-year-old wideout became a key contributor.  But with 53 other free-agent receivers available, how much will Boldin be worth?

All three names fall into the “good problems to have” category, but if a contending team doesn’t wisely navigate the tough decisions that emerge from building a contender, the contending can quickly come to an end.

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