COMMENTARY | If there is a point in the San Francisco 49ers' recent history from which it turned around a 6-10 team in 2010 to a 11-4 team and back-to-back NFC champions in 2012, it was the 2010 NFL Draft.
That year the 49ers focused on the offensive line, a rather weak part of their offense to that point. San Francisco had its sights set on two linemen in particular, trading up to No. 11 overall for tackle Anthony Davis and selecting guard Mike Iupati at No. 17.
Three years later, the 23-year-old Davis has received a five-year, $37.3 million contract extension as a key part of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
An arguably even bigger part of the 49ers' success at offensive line is Iupati, a first-team All-Pro in 2012.
The San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch is reporting that the 25-year-old Iupati could be next up for a contract extension with the team.
"From a practical standpoint, Iupati, 25, would seem to be next in line for an extension. The 49ers can't begin negotiating with Kaepernick and Smith until after the 2013 season and their maiden contract negotiation with Crabtree in 2009 didn't yield a signature until after a 71-day holdout."
In my mind, though, Iupati's rare ability is the most compelling reason he'll be the next to sign a long-term extension."
Iupati makes the most sense to receive the next contract extension from the 49ers, since it appears like now is the time for San Francisco to start locking up their young players for the foreseeable future.
Iupati would likely see a much larger contract than what was offered to Davis, too. He is everything a coach could want in an offensive lineman, with quick feet, strength and a big body. He also fits perfectly into how offensive coordinator Greg Roman and head coach Jim Harbaugh prefer to run their offense, as quarterback Colin Kaepernick mixes the run-option with long passes downfield.
The 49ers have their work cut out for them, as expected contract negotiations for their young star players are fast approaching. As Branch mentioned, Kaepernick and Aldon Smith are out of the extension picture until after next season, making Iupati the logical priority to re-sign with the team.
Crabtree is presumably in a world of his own when it comes to contract negotiations with the 49ers. He held out for 71 days after being selected by San Francisco in the first round in 2009, and much of the same negotiating process can be expected this time around.
So the 49ers set their sights on what they can control at the moment. Davis and Iupati are talents who have played a huge role in the success of the franchise since 2010, and they will be rewarded appropriately.
Scott Semmler is a senior at San Jose State University fortunate enough to have covered nearly every Bay Area professional sports team, including the San Francisco Giants' 2012 World Series title. Follow him on Twitter @ScottSemmler22.
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