In the period of traveling back from Spring Training and covering the latest Mark Jackson saga, I’ve missed a lot of 49ers news. Free agency is still in session, although most of the top guys have been (over)paid by now. The owners meetings were the story this week, but all we’ve covered here is the new rule that says players can’t dunk over the crossbar (a post in which I managed to shoehorn a specific complaint about the 49ers’ new tailgating laws).
— The owners meetings are held far away from the West Coast, but the Matts (Barrows and Maiocco) and Tim Kawakami made the trip. Kawakami did yeoman’s work, transcribing every interview with Jed York, Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh.
— It appeared the 49ers were happy to prove to the world that Baalke and Harbaugh get along. York mentioned that tension exists at 49ers HQ, but it’s the good kind of tension that’s a given when a team advances as far as the 49ers have over the past three years. Baalke and Harbaugh were seen conversing, and everyone seemed to be in a good mood.
Here’s Harbaugh’s take, (from Part 2 of Kawakami’s Harbaugh transcript):
A lot has been made about the relationship between Trent and I and it’s good; we don’t like to talk about it that much ‘Trent and Jim,’ you know? This is a team effort here.
This is an organization where you’ve got a lot of coaches that are putting in a lot of work when it comes to evaluating free agency or the draft, same on the personnel side. Trent has a great staff; they work extremely hard at it.
Just to say, talk about it just me and Trent… it’s a team effort. I’ve heard Trent say the same thing and I couldn’t agree more.
But yeah, working very well together, to answer your question.
— Besides the interplay between Harbaugh and the front office, the most of the attention was focused on the upcoming extension for Colin Kaepernick. I say “upcoming,” because the team seems united in their belief that Kaepernick is worth the huge raise that’s coming at some point, and they seem committed to reaching an accord before the season starts.
“We’re going to work extremely hard, very diligently in trying to get something done prior to training camp,” Baalke said. “That’s the objective right now, as it stands.”
That doesn’t mean we’ll hear about an extension in the next week, but the 49ers don’t seem keen on letting this year play out and holding the franchise tag over Kaepernick’s head either. Harbaugh in particular set the expectation, both publicly and in the locker room, that the starting quarterback would and should be the highest-paid player on the team.
-Q: You guys have such a carefully structured payroll. When and if Colin gets his deal, he’ll go way to the top of it, maybe by a lot. Will that be accepted by the locker room because he works so hard?
-HARBAUGH: That he is as good as he is and puts in the work? No question, no question about it.
We’re all looking at it that way; he deserves that, that’s what he deserves. That’s what the market pays for that job and nobody attacks it more than he does. Nobody wants to be great like he does.
— What we heard last season about Kaepernick was true: he did suffer a foot injury early on (probably in Week 1), and the 49ers tried to limit his rushing until the end of the season to keep him as healthy as possible. Harbaugh also mocked those who questioned Kaepernick’s ability to go through his progressions from the first receiving option to the second, third and fourth, and effectively ripped every 49ers receiver besides Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree (and the personnel people for not acquiring better receivers).
But there was tough sledding at times. And it’s on all of us to make it better. It’s on the players–let’s get another really good option besides Anquan, besides Michael, besides Vernon. We talked about that earlier.
But there were times in the 2013 season where his options was just get to one guy.
So-called experts that you’re talking about [Harbaugh drops into a thin nasal voice], ’Oh, the 1, the 2, the 3, the 4…’ Uh, you know, they’re not sitting back there in that pocket, anyway.[Takes a deep breath and laughs.]
Let’s move on. Before I get emotionally high-jacked. [Laughs.]
— The 49ers brought back Kassim Osgood and Perrish Cox on one-year deals.
Osgood isn’t the least bit surprising; he fit in very well on the coverage units and in the locker room. One of the more amusing moments last season came after the last game at Candlestick. Osgood had his first/only reception of the season for 17 yards, and when Kaepernick stepped to the podium, the veteran receiver implored Kaepernick to mention Osgood’s Instagram and Twitter pages. Kaepernick declined to do so, but he laughed at Osgood’s suggestion.
The 49ers released Cox in the middle of last season. He then spent a short period of time in Seattle, and the 49ers ended up bringing him back after the Seahawks released him. So it was kind of surprising to see a guy who was released twice jump ahead of Eric Wright on the depth chart after Carlos Rogers got hurt in the last regular season game of the season, but Vic Fangio said Cox looked more prepared during practices and meetings heading into the playoffs. Since the 49ers re-signed Wright, it made sense that they’d bring back Cox.
— There are some owners who shouldn’t be on Twitter. Jim Irsay and Dan Gilbert come to mind. Then there are guys like Mark Cuban and Jed York, who use the platform in fun ways. Here’s one of York’s best efforts, from Sunday:
On way to Disney w/ 4 kids under 5 & a PO’d wife. Baalke watching film in hotel. He won’t trade w/ me. Why won’t he do ANYTHING during FA?!?
— Jed York (@JedYork) March 22, 2014
— You’ve all seen this by now, but Harbaugh did pushups with a walrus:
Harbaugh’s Walrus explanation, also from “TK transcribes Jim. Part 2”:
-HARBAUGH: Oh, just the kids and I and Sarah went to Great America Six Flags there and got a walrus that was doing sit-ups and then he did push-ups and I volunteered to do push-ups with him.
-Q: You were in the crowd?
-HARBAUGH: No, they were kind of giving us a little tour…
-Q: Was it competitive?
-HARBAUGH: No. [Laughs.] It’s a well-trained walrus, though.
-Q: Worried at all being that close to a walrus, that he might get angry?
-HARBAUGH: No. Got a kiss on the cheek, too. That was a well-trained walrus. The walrus did sit-ups, too. You’ve got to check him out.
I have a feeling the 49ers will let the season ride with Kap's existing deal in place and then see how things play out in next year's offseason. If rumors are true, Kaps agent is asking way too much and Jed is smartly not biting, which is a good thing. Waiting a season to negotiate will accomplish a few things mostly in the 49ers favor.
1) See if Kap can improve with a better than average receiving corp
2) Give Harbaugh a year to evaluate Gabbert (as leverage... or insurance?)
The kind words to Kap are just there to reinstate that management/ownership know he is worth way more than what he his is currently getting paid and up there with all the rest of well paid QBs, but not what his agent is demanding. In other words, they are on his side and want to pay him something comparable to what a top-notch QB gets in the market these days but they also want to be able to maintain a respectable supporting cast around him, as well.
The worst case scenario is Kap plays out his existing contract and is franchised for two years in-a-row and walks. So, we have him for at least 3 more seasons. In that time I am pretty confident they can come to a middle ground or Harbaugh can mold Gabbert's 6'5" frame into a respectable QB replacement.