Kaepernick: 'We have to keep our momentum'
Jim Harbaugh is in the third year of a five-year, $25 million contract; Colin Kaepernick still has one season remaining on his four-year, $5.129 million rookie contract. (USATSI)
SANTA CLARA -- Now that the 49ers have wrapped up a spot in the NFC playoffs, the important stuff begins.
Really, nothing that happened up to this point -- or, even, through Sunday’s regular-season finale at the Arizona Cardinals -- will matter all that much when the season is looked back upon.
That is especially true for coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The performances of both men will be judged beginning the weekend of Jan. 4-5, when the 49ers will most likely open the playoffs on the road.
The bar was set high last season when the 49ers came oh-so-close to a victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
CEO Jed York said he plans to re-open contract talks with Harbaugh after the season. Harbaugh did not find the 49ers’ offer of years and dollars to his liking after last season, when the 49ers were Super Bowl runner-ups.
Harbaugh is in the third year of a five-year, $25 million contract that makes him the third-highest-paid coach in the NFC West behind Pete Carroll and Jeff Fisher ($7 million apiece). Nine NFL coaches make $6.5 million or more.
It’s difficult to imagine Harbaugh’s asking price will lower or the 49ers’ offer will substantially increase if the 49ers fail to make a deep run. As much as the 49ers might want to keep Harbaugh around, they are unlikely to set precedence with a huge deal. Any delays or dissatisfaction in negotiations could lead to some initial offseason drama.
Of course, Harbaugh’s contract has no bearing on the 49ers’ salary cap. However, Kaepernick’s potential new deal will greatly influence the composition of the rest of the 49ers’ roster.
The 49ers can begin negotiating a new contract for Kaepernick on Monday. He will have one season remaining on his four-year, $5.129 million rookie contract. Of course, the 49ers will wait to see how the postseason plays out before determining their next move and how much of a value to place of Kaepernick’s services.
A year ago at this time, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco struggled as the regular season concluded. But he got hot in January. Flacco parlayed his postseason success into becoming the highest-paid player in the NFL at $20.1 million annually. Flacco’s timing was impeccable last season.
Harbaugh and Kaepernick have worked for nearly a year to get back for another run at a Super Bowl. And how 49ers management values their contributions will likely hinge on what happens next.