Getting second-round choice Colin Kaepernick signed in time was most important for a few reasons:
Lockout effect. The lockout has prevented players from learning their playbooks as well as they would have otherwise learned them. Quarterbacks have more to learn than other players. Their responsibilities are vaster. Kaepernick needs every day of coaching he can get to prepare for the season.
Arms shortage. The prohibition on veteran free agents practicing before Aug. 4 prevents Alex Smith from taking the lead when the 49ers open camp Thursday. The team plans to release veteran backup David Carr. From a purely practical standpoint, the 49ers needed Kaepernick in camp. Every arm is especially valuable at the moment.
Goodwill factor. The 49ers already have to worry about Frank Gore possibly holding out to open camp. They didn't need any other contract disputes heading into Jim Harbaugh's first camp as head coach.
The new labor agreement has narrowed parameters for rookie contracts. That should help teams get deals done in a more timely fashion.