San Francisco 49ers‘ quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is eligible for a contract extension this offseason, has said that he’s open to taking less money to ensure that the team has ample room to sign great players around him. The only problem is that the 49ers’ front office reportedly isn’t convinced that he’s their quarterback of the future, as sfgate.com’s Kevin Lynch reported Wednesday.
While waiting another year to sign Kaepernick to an extension is a risk, as Joe Flacco‘s contract with the Baltimore Ravens so clearly demonstrated, it’s a risk worth taking in regards to Kaepernick.
While Kaepernick has looked great at times in his first 1.5 years at the helm, he’s had his fair share of struggles as well. In the Niners’ most important quarter of the season, he was responsible for two costly turnovers that led to the Seattle Seahawks dramatic 23-17 victory in the NFC Championship. In a game that saw the 49ers’ team leaders play at an elite level, the quarterback’s play down the stretch left a lot to be desired.
What the 49ers need to see from Kaepernick in 2014 is genuine development. They need to see his decision making improve, and he needs to become a better pocket passer. He also needs to see his completion percentage to go up; his 58.4 percent completion rate in 2013 ranked him 31st among NFL quarterbacks. What’s painful about Kaepernick now is that he has all the necessary tools to be successful, he just hasn’t able to consistently put it all together.
His development, unfortunately, is taking place as the rest of the team is collectively peaking. Their No. 2-ranked defense played exceptionally well in 2013, as did the offensive line. Windows of opportunity in the NFL typically don’t stay open for long, and to see the Niners’ window close because they’re waiting around for Kaepernick to progress won’t be tolerated.
General manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh don’t need to make a permanent decision on Kaepernick just yet, and he hasn’t provided them with enough evidence to suggest that he’s worth a $100 million dollar contract. If he’s able to show tangible progress in 2014, and perhaps even lead the Niners to a Super Bowl victory, this conversation will adopt an entirely different narrative come 2015.