The problem with drafting really well in the NFL (if that is even a problem) is that you have to make some really tough decisions on who to sign and who to let walk because of salary cap restrictions. The San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of some huge choices over the next couple years. The first domino to fall was allowing Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Harder decisions will be presented because the 49ers have some really good players up for contract extensions. The player most deserving of a contract extension this offseason is none other than Michael Crabtree.
Crabtree is arguably the second most important piece on offense behind Colin Kaepernick, as evidenced by the Super Bowl when they targeted him on multiple plays on the Baltimore Ravens‘ goal line stand to win the Lombardi Trophy (that sentence really hurt to write).
Crabtree is Kaepernick’s favorite target on offense. His 2012 season stats clearly exemplify his favoritism towards Crabtree, where he had career-highs in receptions (85), receiving yards (1,105) and touchdowns (9). He is the 49ers #1 receiver on a team that has struggled to find a #2 and #3 receiver. A full offseason with Kaepernick entrenched as the starter will only help bolster Crabtree’s stats.
With players like Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati, Aldon Smith, Tarell Brown and of course Kaepernick’s contracts expiring in the next one or two years, the 49ers would be very prudent to sign Crabtree to a long-term contract to free up the franchise tag for any one of those players.
Crabtree had a tumultuous start to his career with the 49ers where he held out on signing his rookie contract, injuries held him out of preseason games and he had numerous controversies with former starting quarterback Alex Smith. Signing him to a long-term contract could be difficult, but giving him a contract a year before his contract expires would help alleviate the negotiations with the team.
The 49ers are set up for success with a young nucleus and a handful of Hall-of-Fame potential players on their roster that are just hitting their prime. They will not be able to sign everybody, but Trent Baalke and the 49ers front office have made decisions to make this team a perennial playoff team and potentially a Super Bowl winning team.
It is time to pay that man, Michael Crabtree.