Less than two years ago, Colin Kaepernick was an unknown commodity, a backup quarterback behind a division champion starter. Now Kaepernick is a true franchise quarterback, with the contract to prove it.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers have signed a six-year extension through 2020, according to a source close to the situation. Kaepernick will earn up to $126 million, with $61 million guaranteed, per Rapoport. Kaepernick was entering the final year of his rookie contract, which was set to pay him under $1 million. The deal was completed in only one day of negotiations, and the team later announced the deal.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has publicly campaigned for Kaepernick to get a new deal this offseason, the first year that he was eligible. The team and Kaepernick had previously tabled contract talks while police investigated an April incident involving Kaepernick at a Miami hotel. This deal speaks louder than Harbaugh's public support ever could; the 49ers want Kaepernick being their team leader for the foreseeable future as they move into their brand new Levi's Stadium.
During an offseason in which Harbaugh's future with the organization has been in question, Kaepernick's contract provides stability. No matter what happens in the future with Harbaugh, the 49ers have a strong core of Pro Bowl players to build around.
The scary part -- for the league and for San Francisco -- is that Kaepernick remains an unfinished product. He has rare tools with his arm strength and speed. For entire games, he can look like the future of the quarterback position and make analysts fall dangerously in love.
He also can look like a work in progress. 49ers legend Steve Young noted this week on ESPN that Kaepernick needs to improve at going through his progressions and staying in the pocket more. Young believes Kaepernick looks to run too often after his first read goes away.
Kaepernick's desire to be great is one reason the 49ers are so confident he'll be worth all the money. The 49ers have made the Super Bowl and NFC title game the last two years with Kaepernick early in his development. The weapons around Kaepernick have only improved this offseason, and the 49ers figure to lean more on their passing game.
Whether Kaepernick turns into a top-five NFL quarterback or if he "only" hangs around as an above-average starter, this was a deal the 49ers had to make. Quarterbacks take up a growing percentage of NFL salary caps, but they are still underpaid for their overall value to the organization. (Just imagine how much Kaepernick would get if he actually made it to free agency.)
The 49ers know what it's like to be searching the NFL wilderness for a quarterback to believe in. They don't have to worry about that for a long time.