BY Art Thiel 04:15PM 03/25/2014

Thiel: 49ers in talks with Kaepernick on big deal

The 49ers are readying mega-millions for QB Colin Kaepernick — despite his final half vs. the Seahawks. Russell Wilson should be thrilled. NFC West pressure builds anew.

Colin Kaepernick would be having an unquestionably stellar career for the 49ers if could just avoid coming to the Clink once or twice a season. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

The Seahawks’ darling neighbors to the south, still bitter about missing an NFC championship and probable Super Bowl triumph by a foot on the final pass of their season, are moving toward locking up the thrower of that pass, Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers apparently figure that next season, $20 million should buy 12 inches.

San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke, at the NFL’s annual meetings in Orlando Tuesday, told reporters that he is seeking to extend Kaepernick’s contract by the time training camp opens in July. He offered no specifics. But media speculation has been that Kaepernick, who has helped lead the 49ers to two NFC title games and a Super Bowl in just 29 starts, would pull between $18 million and $20 million after the expiration of his rookie contract, which will bring him about $1 million this season.

Chicago’s Jay Cutler raised the QB standard with an $18 million annual salary and $54 million guaranteed.

“We’re going to work extremely hard, very diligently in trying to get something done prior to training camp,” Baalke said. “That’s the objective right now, as it stands.”

Baalke said talks began at the scouting combine in February and will have more talks soon, although he cautioned against a quick resolution because of the deal’s complexity. Baalke’s decision to speak publicly is considered a sign that the 49ers are committing to Kaepernick as their QB of the future.

Until a deal gets done, however, speculation will continue about Kaepernick’s perceived shortcomings as a franchise QB, which were evident in the second half of the NFC title game in Seattle that the Seahawks won, 23-17.

After the 49ers gained a 17-10 lead halfway through the third quarter, Kaepernick took a delay of game penalty, followed on the next play by losing a fumble during a sack. On his next pass, he was picked off by SS Kam Chancellor.

Then came the fateful final play, an end zone pass that was deflected by CB Richard Sherman into an interception. Kaepernick’s second-half QBR of 27.0 is his worst performance in a half of any playoff game in his career.

Kaepernick’s potential deal has a couple of impacts for the arch-rival Seahawks. It will force the 49ers to spend big money in 2014 on one player, although the deal could be back-loaded to give the 49ers more near-term flexibility under the salary cap. And it sets the table for an even bigger deal for Russell Wilson, who has a year less service time and won’t get his offer to extend until a year from now. But he has a 1-0 lead over Kaepernick in Super Bowl trophies.

The 49ers would also like to strike a deal to take attention away from the tense relationship between Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh, which blew up the NFL scouting combine in February when news broke that Harbaugh, in his own marvelously awkward fashion, put himself out as a candidate for the coaching vacancy in Cleveland.

Much gossip ensued about the dysfunction between the organization’s two most prominent figures, including the belief that Harbaugh’s apparently genetic need to win at everything, including last words on personnel decisions, is driving everyone bats.

The tumult has died down, but is sure to rise again because it’s a little hard to be talking about the future of the franchise with the franchise quarterback while the coach is dithering about whether to continue beyond his final contracted year this season.

As with the Seahawks, the 49ers were throwing dimes in free agency as if they were manhole covers. After releasing defensive backs Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown and Donte Whitner, they added safety Antoine Bethea from the Colts at $22.5 million over four years.

They also traded with the Dolphins for OT Jonathan Martin, he of Bullygate infamy, and with Jacksonville for Blaine Gabbert, who will back up Kaepernick for $2 million. Otherwise, they were clearing cap space as if they were building an airport runway in the jungle.

Serious assets include 11 picks in the May draft heralded as one of the deepest in many years. After getting compensatory picks this week in the NFL allotment, the Niners have a No. 1, two No. 2s, three No. 3s, a four, a five and three sevens. That amounts to six in the top 100 picks, compared to two for Seattle.

The Niners don’t have that many holes to fill, but the picks give the Niners flexibility to trade up in the first round from 30th, two spots ahead of the Seahawks.

It’s still way early to say where things stand for the autumn between the NFC West antagonists except to say that the 49ers appear ready to commit large coin to the guy who came up short, barely, in the crucible against the Seahawks.

That could be good news or bad news for the Seahawks. But it is great news for Russell Wilson, whose lifelong preparation could well separate him financially from any NFL player who has trod this mortal coil.

And hope remains undiminished that the title role in the Jim Harbaugh movie still will be played by Daffy Duck in pleated khakis.


YourThoughts

  • Gary S

    I guess when your choices to write about are the Mariners or the quarterback of our hated division rivals … Never mind, there really isn’t much of a choice here. Go Art!

    • RadioGuy

      Yeah, at least he’s not reduced to scuffling for columns on the Seattle Mist.

      • art thiel

        Jim knows that beat better than anyone.

        • RadioGuy

          You know, I’ve started on about four different snappy replies, all with references to moonlighting Hooter’s Girls, but I used to call in scores and highlights to the P-I back in my PR days when Jim was covering the phones and even though it was always after 10 and deadline was approaching, he came across as a good guy. He’s paid his dues, so a little self-indulgence with the Mist is okay.

          • art thiel

            No argument here — except when starts in on dogs and Cougs.

  • poulsbogary

    If kap was going to win a super bowl, it would have happened by now. The 3 to 4 year window is now closed. Oh they will still be a threat in the division by all means, but he is no joe montana.

    • art thiel

      I missed that announcement about the window closing. You should’ve let Harbaugh know so he could have taken the Cleveland job.

      • poulsbogary

        It’s called being in the prime of your career. It doesn’t go on forever. The bills had 4 shots at it, then nobody ever heard from them again.

  • PokeyPuffy

    People talk alot about the extra 12″ needed to clear Sherman, presumably giving the 9ers the NFC title game, but i would put forth he was actually quite lucky to have lost by a single score. The TD pass to Boldin in the 3rd quarter should have been a pick, and we should have scooped up the forward fumble on the previous play. He could have easily walked out with 5 turnovers in a very meaningful game, so one could question how is it he is getting the big payday?

    No doubt he is talented and looks dashing as he gallops up the field, but the judgement center seems to be lacking.

    • art thiel

      Same if/then game can be played with Seahawks plays. But the teams were dead even until the end zone pick, which will always stand out. Timing is everything.

      • PokeyPuffy

        Art, my if/then points were more to address those who would characterize the hawks as beneficiaries of a single play i.e. a fluke…

        i think we all acknowledge there is more to a game than a given play, and in this case it was actually more like a boxing match with a each blow slowly eroding away the strength and accuracy of the opponent, until the eventual tko.

        Out of analogies for the evening but maybe more will come tomorrow

    • jafabian

      Scoreboard baby!

  • 1coolguy

    Kap ought to go free agent after this year and test the market. He is MUCH more valuable than Flacco or Stafford. What the heck, there’s no downside, unless he is injured this year, which can be taken care of with insurance.
    I would do this if I were Wilson also – the sky is the limit!

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      SSSSSHHHHHhhhhhh…Russ?Dont listen to this guy. LOL .

      Russell is headed for a stacked deck very soon…you are right.
      Acc’d to the collective bargaining agreement Wilson is still a year away from any bargaining power he will enjoy so the ball is temporarily in Seattles court but I would surmise RW will be a very rich young man come next offseason.
      In the meantime the Seahawks should hire a hypnotist for Russell and fashion suggestive words like “Hometown Discount” into Wilsons sessions taken from the book of Tate. Hopefully better results ensue than with the Golden one.

      • art thiel

        Players have agents to keep them away from guys like you.

    • art thiel

      He might. Just because an offer is being readied doesn’t mean he’ll take it. An unresolved situation entering the regular season can be a problem for player, team or both. Depends entirely on the each circumstance.

  • 1coolguy

    Question on QB salaries: With Aaron Rodgers @ $25m and a stiff like Flacco @ $20m, why do Brady and Manning get under $20M? I think they are at $18m and $19m, respectively.

    • art thiel

      Variables include signing bonuses, guaranteed money, length, date of the contract (salary inflation).

  • jafabian

    Sometimes Kaepernick reminds me of Tony Romo, though he’s had better playoff success. Overall a solid QB but sometimes does things that can make his team and fans pull their hair out. I fully expect the 49ers to reward him well still. Russell Wilson has to be watching closely.

    • art thiel

      He’s 26. Lots of career left to make fixes regarding his judgment issues.