Ranking the 49ers' Top 10 contract priorities

Ranking the 49ers' Top 10 contract priorities
June 3, 2014, 9:45 am
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If the 49ers are not able to sign Crabtree to an extension during the season, he will almost assuredly go to the high-bidder as a free agent.
Matt Maiocco

Over his last 16 games (including playoffs) Michael Crabtree has 89 catches for 1310 yards and 8 touchdowns. (USATI)

Vernon Davis' 52 catches in 2013 were tied for 14th most among tight ends. His 13 touchdowns were good for second most. (USATI)

The 49ers have plenty of players looking for new contracts, and here’s a list of the Top 10. The rankings are based on importance to the team and “signability”:

1. QB Colin Kaepernick (signed through 2014): In 23 regular-season starts, he has a passer rating of 93.8 with 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. While posting a 4-2 postseason record, he has 507 yards rushing in six games. He is 26, and it’s unanimous within the 49ers organization that he is a franchise quarterback and worthy of a contract in the range of $20 million per season. The sides are reportedly set to return to the negotiating table this week.

2. RG Alex Boone (signed through 2015): He has quickly asserted himself as one of the top guards in the NFL in his two seasons at the position. With scheduled salaries of less than $4 million over the two remaining years of his deal, he ranks 38th among guards in scheduled pay. The 49ers have leverage, but Boone is represented by agents Jonathan Feinsod and Neil Schwartz who are known to advise their clients – such as Darrelle Revis, Vincent Jackson and Roddy White -- to engage in acrimonious holdouts. The 49ers have not caved in to such tactics in the past. Boone has not taken part in the 49ers’ offseason program.

3. LG Mike Iupati (signed through 2014): This could be an either/or at guard for the 49ers. If Boone signs a new contract, it’s difficult to imagine the 49ers paying top dollar for two guards. If Iupati hits the open market, he would likely get paid like a top guard. The 49ers seem prepared to lose one of their guards. After all, the team selected Brandon Thomas in the third round of the draft. After he spends this season rehabbing from a torn ACL, he could step in as a starter in 2015.

[REWIND: 49ers O-line cashes in under franchise level]

4. WR Michael Crabtree (signed through 2014): Crabtree was difficult to sign as a rookie when he had no outside leverage. While on the verge of free agency, he is not expected to accept anything less than a big-money deal. Obviously, the 49ers want to wrap up Crabtree to a long-term deal, but it will not be at any price. This year's franchise tag of $12.3 million for wide receivers will go up. And it's doubtful the 49ers would be willing to pay that kind of money to retain him. If the 49ers are not able to sign Crabtree to an extension during the season, he will almost assuredly go to the high-bidder as a free agent. Anquan Boldin, Stevie Johnson, Quinton Patton and rookie Bruce Ellington are under contract at least through 2015.

5. OLB Aldon Smith (signed through 2015): Smith has two years remaining on his contract, and he has to live up to the promises he made to the 49ers to stay out of trouble. He has a hefty cap figure of of $9.754 million for the 2015 season after the 49ers picked up the fifth-year option. With Smith, how he acts off the field will have as much to do with the 49ers’ level of commitment as what he does as a pass-rusher.

6. LT Joe Staley (signed through 2017): He is the 12th-highest-paid tackle in the league, but he has relatively low base salaries through the life of the contract that he signed in 2009. With the cap continuing to go up, Staley wants a new deal. Unlike Boone and Vernon Davis, he is taking part in all the 49ers’ voluntary offseason program.

7. CB Chris Culliver (signed through 2014): Like Aldon Smith, Culliver’s off field actions are as closely monitored as his on-field play. After the 49ers released Carlos Rogers and let Tarell Brown walk as a free agent, the 49ers wanted to wrap up Culliver to a long-term extension. However, his latest off-field episode stalled any such action. He is slated to start this season as he returns from a torn ACL that wiped out last season.

8. TE Vernon Davis (signed through 2015): He is dissatisfied with his contract and remains away from the 49ers’ offseason program. It is not known if he will make an appearance on the 49ers’ practice field within the next three weeks. The 49ers’ mandatory minicamp is scheduled for June 17-19, at which point the team can fine a player nearly $70,000 for refusal to take part. Davis is already the third-highest-paid tight end in the league, and Rob Gronkowski (No. 1) had a deal in which his big money does not kick in for another season.

9. RB Frank Gore (signed through 2014): He turned 31 last month, and this is historically the time when NFL running backs start to fizzle. The 49ers have a stable of young running backs behind Gore, including Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore. In all likelihood, no decision on Gore’s future will be made until his 2014 performance is evaluated.

10. NT Glenn Dorsey (signed through 2014): He was outstanding after taking over for Ian Williams early in the season. The 49ers have some young depth on the defensive line, so they can let this season play out before making a determination on Dorsey's future. Because the nose tackle is the first player to exit the field in passing situations, that position plays only about 40 percent of the snaps and ranks lower on the list of priorities.

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