The Niners' Kaepernick dilemma

Colin Kaepernick is 21-8 in his career as a starter for the San Francisco 49ers. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick has a 21-8 record with four playoff victories and one Super Bowl appearance since becoming the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback during the 2012 season. Not everyone loves everything about his game, but it's tough finding quarterbacks with higher early trajectories.

To see just how tough it is, consider how Kaepernick's 29-start credentials stack up against those for all other QBs who made their first 29 starts over the past nine seasons. Kaepernick stands first in Total QBR, second in winning percentage and fourth in passer rating on a 25-man list featuring Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck.

With three seasons behind him, Kaepernick recently became eligible for a new contract with one year remaining on his four-year rookie deal. Everything we've learned about the importance of quarterbacks tells us the 49ers should seize the opportunity to extend Kaepernick's contract before the price climbs even higher. Otherwise, they risk the sort of trouble Baltimore ran into when Joe Flacco leveraged a contract-year Super Bowl run into a $120 million deal that will hamstring the organization for years and force the Ravens back to the bargaining table seeking relief. The 49ers could find themselves in a similar situation if Kaepernick leads them to a championship in his contract year next season -- no stretch for a player with memorable postseason performances on his résumé already.

So, yes, the bottom line is that, at the right price, the Niners would be wise to lock up Kaepernick this offseason. But after speaking Monday with three player agents, one NFL contract negotiator and a former general manager, I came away questioning conventional wisdom. Do the 49ers really need to pony up for their quarterback this offseason?