By rule, teams can start negotiating contracts with players who were taken in the 2011 draft. Smith was the 49ers’ first-round pick and Kaepernick was the team’s second-round pick. Next season will be the final contract year for both players. Both are cornerstone players whom the 49ers intend to keep.
I fully expect the team to extend both players sometime in the next 14 months before they are eligible to leave as free agents. But there are complications. Let’s take a quick look:
Kaepernick: Quarterback prices are steep and Kaepernick will likely want a deal that surpasses $100 million. So, the 49ers might want to wait and see how he fares in 2014 before committing that much to him and their salary cap. Kaepernick is the future, but there is no rush on this deal.
Smith: His off-field issues are well documented. I think the 49ers will want to see Smith stay out of trouble and get his two pending court cases out of the way before they extend him. The worst thing the team could do now is to commit to Smith and he takes a step back off the field.
So, while the clock is running on getting a deal done for these two centerpieces, there is no rush to get them done.