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Colin Kaepernick is a physical specimen. Standing six-foot-four, he can outrun players in the secondary. He has one of the strongest arms in the league and was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the MLB Draft. After leading the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl berth and within a foot of getting back to that same game last season, Kaepernick signed a mega-extension this offseason. No longer was he getting paid like a young player. Instead, the six-year deal worth up to $126 million made him one of the highest-paid players in the entire league. With the pressure on, the highly-paid Kaepernick will be relied on more than ever to produce a Super Bowl in the upcoming years.
Last offseason, Joe Flacco rode a Super Bowl title to a huge contract extension. With fewer weapons around him due to the money being spent on his contract, Flacco failed to get back to the playoffs and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Quarterback is the highest-paid position in the NFL and they are the face of the franchise. The ball is in their hand during every offensive snap. With a quarterback making a substantial amount of money though, there is less money to go around building a strong team. The 49ers have an excellent front office and a talented roster from top to bottom. However, soon they will discover the cap crunch from Kaepernick’s big contract number and he will be called upon to carry the offense.
To be a successful quarterback in the league, you must be able to throw the ball while in the pocket. Sooner or later, defenses figure out mobile quarterbacks and if you are one-dimensional and tuck it and run every time you face pressure, prospects for long-term success dwindle. Kaepernick holds the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in an NFL game as he shredded the Green Bay Packers in his first year as a starter. However, he must develop as a passer. Last season, he ranked in the bottom half of the league in passing touchdowns, yards and completions. This season, the 49ers have given him more receiving options, acquiring Stevie Johnson via trade and Bruce Ellington in the draft. Add in Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and a powerhouse running game and Kaepernick has plenty of reliable pass catchers.
The defense of the 49ers has been the team’s backbone in recent years. This season, however, All-Pro NaVorro Bowman will start the season on the physically unable to perform list, and the secondary lost its leader for the second straight year. There will be more shootouts that Kaepernick will have to win with his arm. The pressure will be high after Kaepernick signed such a big offseason deal. If he doesn’t develop a better passing game, he will not be worth the money. The pressure will be even higher as San Francisco wants to get back to the Super Bowl and get revenge against last season’s Super Bowl winner and division rival, Seattle. It will be on Kaepernick’s arm, not legs, to get them there.