YSTL: Successful '14 season more important to Harbaugh or Kap?
With Bruce Miller's value as a blocker and Kendall Hunter's role as part of the "three-headed monster" at running back, the 49ers may look to extend both soon. (USATSI)
This is the first offseason that players from the 2011 draft are eligible to sign contract extensions.
Daniel Kilgore, who becomes the clear front-runner to start at center for the 49ers, might not carry the same kind of magnitude as Colin Kaepernick, but his new three-year extension is significant nonetheless.
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Kaepernick’s representation and the 49ers officially opened contract talks last week at a table in the middle of a dining room of an Indianapolis restaurant during the NFL Scouting Combine. Those negotiations could take a while to result in a blockbuster contract extension.
And the 49ers have a fifth-year option with outside linebacker Aldon Smith because he was a first-round draft pick, so there is not a lot of urgency to complete a long-term deal with him.
Here are some other players from that 2011 draft class who should warrant consideration for contract extensions (listed in order of likelihood to re-sign):
FB Bruce Miller: A seventh-round pick in the 2011 draft, Miller’s original deal pays him a $525,000 average per season. He should be available for complete participation in the offseason program after sustaining a fractured shoulder blade Dec. 15 against Tampa Bay. Miller turned into an important part of the 49ers’ offense as a blocker. Suprisingly, he was third on the team with 25 receptions for 243 yards. Few teams use a fullback as much as the 49ers, so he is considerably more valuable to this offense than any other team in the league.
RB Kendall Hunter: He made a solid return from a torn Achilles tendon in 2012. He played less than 20 percent of the 49ers’ offensive snaps, as Frank Gore handled most of the duties. But Hunter, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry, appears to have value to the 49ers in the future as part of a Trent Baalke-preferred “three-headed monster” at running back. If Hunter is extended, he could be paired with Marcus Lattimore in future seasons.
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CB Chris Culliver: He is coming off a knee injury that ended his season in training camp. It seems unlikely he would sign a contract extension – or the 49ers would offer him a significant deal -- at this point. Culliver has a chance to win a starting job in 2014. And if he plays well, he could be in line for a big contract.