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Should Vance McDonald extension allow us to read into Trent Baalke’s future?

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$16 million guaranteed is not a monster deal, but it’s enough to raise eyebrows.

The San Francisco 49ers announced tight end Vance McDonald signed a five year contract extension that will lock him up through 2021. NFL deals aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, but with $16 million in guaranteed money, it’s certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Beyond what this means for the offense and tight end position moving forward, it raises the question of what to make of Trent Baalke in all this. The 49ers general manager would seemingly be on the hot seat with a 1-11 team that is coming off an ugly loss to the 3-9 Chicago Bears. He has acknowledged the problems on the roster, and said on two separate occasions that it is his fault.

I would not expect Baalke to just mail it in the final month of the season, but it is still interesting to see a sizable extension handed out at such a time. It is now the fifth highest contract in per year value, behind Colin Kaepernick, NaVorro Bowman, Torrey Smith, and Joe Staley. Per year value holds little value in assessing contracts, but it is still a notable number.

Paraag Marathe handles contract negotiations under the title of executive VP of football operations. Baalke is listed as the general manager, and would seemingly have sway in discussing contract extensions. All of this is to ask, what does it mean for the future of the football operations department?

We’ll need to wait and see how the contract breaks out, but my guess is given the 49ers history, it is sufficiently team friendly that if a new GM decided McDonald was not a long-term option, he could be released. Of course, McDonald’s drops are an issue, but beyond that he does have some very valuable tools. He is a playmaker, albeit an inconsistent one. So, whether or not Baalke gets fired, maybe McDonald is staying around anyway.

It is also worth noting that if Tom Gamble is the guy who potentially replaces a fired Baalke, then this might not be nearly as big a discussion point as we would otherwise think. He potentially takes over, Paraag remains in his negotiation role, and the beat goes on.

All of this is to say, we still have to wait until January to see what’s next for football operations.