He's there in the background and as part of the presumptive spreadsheet for everything the 49ers do these days.
The looming reality: Colin Kaepernick will get paid either this offseason or soon afterward. He will get paid a lot.
There is no getting around it, and the 49ers don't want to get around it -- at some point between now and the 2015 season, they almost certainly will increase Kaepernick's salary exponentially, because they have to.
And this marketplace certainty overshadows every move the 49ers have made this offseason and will for years to come.
Of course, general manager Trent Baalke has positions to fill, a draft to plan and all the usual practical pieces to realign for another attempt at a Super Bowl run in 2014.
Baalke has let a few free agents go, signed a few, is still looking and has gone about the whole process in the 49ers' usual balanced and circumspect manner.
But Kaepernick's new deal will be an enormous part of the 49ers' financial future, whenever it comes, and that lavish probability means the 49ers have to figure out how to make room for it.
Simply, Kaepernick is essentially irreplaceable. He is currently making less than $1 million, and any new deal will probably pay him at least $18 million annually.
That's what young, playoff-winning quarterbacks make, and Kaepernick isn't likely headed to a cut-rate deal.
By the way, the 49ers also have other stars who are due extensions soon, including guard Mike Iupati, receiver Michael Crabtree and linebacker Aldon Smith.
But those contract negotiations won't have the payroll impact of one player getting a $17-million raise.
That changes things. You have to brace for it.
For instance, the 49ers were able to go heavy at other spots last year because their QB costs were so light. But whenever Kaepernick gets that raise, that payroll benefit will end.
Here's a little thumbnail look at how the Kaepernick Factor has touched the 49ers' offseason so far ...
Acquiring Jackson would give the 49ers a true deep threat, but his $10.5 million salary (and frequent demands for more and more money) would blow up the 49ers' careful payroll construct.
Also: You can't give a new receiver huge money if you actually need to give that money -- and more -- to your young QB.
They released Carlos Rogers and let Tarell Brown and Donte Whitner go and right now are planning to start Chris Culliver, Tramaine Brock, Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid in the defensive backfield.
That's how you trim down the costs at the margins, and Baalke clearly has decided the secondary is the best place to target.
Last year, Reid ($2.1 million per year on his rookie deal) was drafted to replace Dashon Goldson ($8.2 million per year with Tampa Bay).
It's a quirk of the rookie wage scale and probably not a huge problem because his teammates know Kaepernick could sign for more right now if he wanted to.
Everybody in the franchise knows he's getting huge bucks eventually.
Now, it's very possible that whenever Kaepernick gets his deal -- this offseason or next -- the immediate salary cap hit won't be that large because it can be structured to start at a much lower number.
But the 49ers still have to plan for an $18-million to $20-million per year impact down the road.
Soon, Kaepernick will eat up more than 10 percent of the 49ers' cap space.
That will unbalance the payroll a little bit, but that's the reality of having a big-time QB ready to enter his prime years.
Good teams live with it, pay for it and definitely have to start planning for it years in advance. Which is now for the 49ers.
DeSean Jackson, right, could likely be the answer to the 49ers' search for a deep threat, but his price tag is too high if the 49ers want to keep their franchise quarterback.
too old ... and therefore too expensive
Remember that veteran secondary the 49ers used to have? Donte Whitner (shown). Carlos Rogers. Tarell Brown. Gone. Gone. Gone. In the NFL, age is money. And the 49ers need to go young to keep Kaepernick. Another casualty of age and money likely is Frank Gore, meaning fans may soon get a heavy dose of Marcus Lattimore.