Much of the talk surrounding contracts this offseason has been about guard Alex Boone and tight end Vernon Davis. While both are still under contract for the next two seasons, guard Mike Iupati and wide receiver Michael Crabtree are pending free agents. As a result, San Francisco 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke will do all that he can to avoid free agency for both Iupati and Crabtree.
Baalke told CSN's Matt Miaocco that the team will attempt to extend both players but does not want the negotiations to interfere with the preparation for the upcoming season.
"We're going to try. We're going to work at it, certainly. But at some point, you got to stop negotiating deals and let these guys concentrate on playing football. I don't know what point that is. We'll make that determination as a club."
Baalke continued to back the team's efforts, while also praising both Iupati and Crabtree.
"But we're certainly going to work toward that goal. Those are two very good football players, and guys we'd love to have in this organization for the long term."
Iupati is entering his fifth year in the league and has been named to two Pro Bowls. The massive 6' 5," 331 pounder out of Idaho has been a stalwart on the offensive line since being drafted. During his first three seasons, Iupati started every game the Niners played. However, last season was filled with bumps and bruises as Iupati battled through a MCL sprain and shoulder injuries for the majority of the season. Iupati ended up missing four regular season games, with the tipping point being the NFC Championship game where the Pro Bowl guard broke his left fibula.
Crabtree's tenure has been a bit rocky at times, yet few still doubt his abilities that made him a top 10 pick back in 2009. Injuries (coupled with a rookie holdout) have gotten in the way of Crabtree putting together a string of fully productive years.
A lingering foot injury followed him throughout the 2011 season and a torn Achilles during training camp last year limited Crabtree to only five regular season games. With Crabtree on the shelf for a big portion of the season, the passing game struggled at times and virtually relied on only two other options in Davis and Anquan Boldin. However, all came together in 2012 for the Texas Tech product, as he accumulated 85 catches for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. It was certainly Crabtree's best year to date and it was no coincidence that the Niners made a Super Bowl appearance the same season.
While talks are being made by all parties since both Iupati and Crabtree are at training camp (unlike Boone), nothing appears to be imminent. The 49er brass has shown a willingness to spend in order to keep their core players intact. The extensions to quarterback Colin Kaepernick and offensive lineman Joe Staley and Anthony Davis over the past year are examples of that. But if extensions aren't met by the end of the season, the franchise tag is available for both players.
Miaocco reports that this year’s tags were just over $12 million and $11 million for wide receivers and offensive lineman, with an increase at both positions being expected. That would put both players in line to make nearly double the average salary of Staley (a three-time Pro Bowler) in 2015.
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- San Francisco 49ers and 3-time Pro Bowler Joe Staley Agree on Extension Through 2019
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