Again, a Chicago Bears signing could have some implications for a high-profile 49ers player.
When quarterback Jay Cutler signed a contract extension after the season that averaged $18.1 million a season, it was seen as the floor for the 49ers’ negotiations with Colin Kaepernick.
On Monday, the 49ers and Michael Crabtree were, perhaps, given “The View” of future negotiations when Chicago wide receiver Brandon Marshall went onto a daytime talk show to sign a three-year extension that averages $10 million per season.
Marshall’s deal appears to be the absolute ceiling for Crabtree, whose best NFL season of 2012 would rate as the seventh most-productive of Marshall’s career. Marshall has recorded five 100-catch seasons as part of a career that has included seven consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns.
Crabtree’s best season was his 85-catch, 1,105-yard breakout season when the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl.
There is no doubt the 49ers would like to re-sign Crabtree, who enters the final year of his contract, to an extension. But after missing the first 11 games of last season with a torn Achilles, Crabtree does not have a lot of leverage on a deal that approaches Marshall money.
The better comparisons might be what the 49ers are already paying Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson. Boldin signed a two-year, $12 million extension this offseason after catching 85 passes and surpassing Crabtree’s yardage of the previous season with 1,179 yards.
Johnson, whose streak of three 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Buffalo Bills ended last season, is scheduled to make $3.925 million this season and slightly more than $6 million in 2015 and 2016.
Crabtree is a very good wide receiver who has never been to a Pro Bowl. And, to his advantage, he is four years younger than Marshall. There is no questioning Crabtree's route-running and hands. And he has even shown to be a more-than-capable blocker.
But is he an elite, game-changing wide receiver? If the 49ers and Crabtree do not agree on that one point, then it’s going to be impossible to work out an agreement before he is scheduled to hit the free-agent market next spring.