For all of the talk about a rift between Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke, if there is one thing this combination does extremely well–and yes, italics are needed, it is that impressive–is negotiate team-friendly contracts with players. While Harbaugh vocally supports his players, Baalke waits. . .and waits. . .and waits, with a fair offer that often sees the player sign. He does not spend extravagantly on the open market, lets players such as Dashon Goldson and Josh Morgan walk away for contracts over-valuing their services, and retains key components–often for less than expected. (The irony is, this same frugality could very well be what is driving the conflict between Harbaugh and the front office, as he likely desires a pay increase and contract extension.)
Though certain positions take up a decent number of the salary cap–inside linebacker, namely–the argument could very well be made that players such as Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, or Joe Staley deserve significantly more than what they are currently being paid. It is telling that the most controversial contract, currently, is that of Carlos Rogers, who performed quite well a couple of years back and is still a solid starter while making roughly $4 million, hardly a king’s ransom.
Even with the negative publicity on the Baalke-Harbaugh relationship, both men are key for the time-being. Harbaugh has brought this team oh-so-close to a championship, and with a couple more years has an excellent chance at overcoming this last elusive obstacle. Baalke, for his part, is needed desperately to make the difficult decisions with regard to players such as Frank Gore, Aldon Smith, Mike Iupati, Michael Crabtree, and Colin Kaepernick, all of whom will likely be seeking new deals in the next year or so.
Harbaugh, as a “players’ coach,” could find this level of separation between roster decisions and himself quite valuable in the locker room, if he so desires. On the other hand, he almost certainly wants more of a say in personnel decisions. It will take some strong management by Jed York, but having these two work together, amicably, like they once did, is by far the most desirable scenario for the time being.