Jim Harbaugh is definitely valuable enough to be worth some employment agita to the 49ers brass, and, yes, he can provide an abundance of agitation.
Oh, and coaching the 49ers is probably worth working for less than market value to Harbaugh, at least for now.
That's where the two sides find themselves with three games left in Harbaugh's third 49ers regular season and a third trip to the postseason beckoning.
Common ground: Harbaugh wants to win a Super Bowl or two and become football's highest-paid coach (about $8 million a year) along the way and believes the 49ers are currently his best shot at it.
And the 49ers believe Harbaugh is a great coach, and they'll be pleased to give him something close to that top dollar -- up from his current $5 million salary -- if he earns them another Lombardi Trophy.
It's not hugs-and-joshing with this group, but that's not Harbaugh's working style, anyway.
Harbaugh likes to keep people guessing and his options open, which might wear a little thin occasionally with CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke.
But it's how most successful coaches play it -- if they've got leverage, why give it up?
It's how they coach, it's how they deal with their bosses, it's why they win, and it's why they're always edging their way to bigger and better deals.
You want a low-maintenance coaching contract situation? Bring back Mike Singletary.
Most recently, Harbaugh, as is his custom, has declined to comment about speculation that the University of Texas could be willing to make him an offer worth upward of $10 million a year to replace Mack Brown, who resigned Saturday.
Earlier, there were some indications that, before hiring Steve Sarkisian, USC might have had some unofficial contact with Harbaugh.
I'm told all of that speculation led York to check in with Harbaugh a few days ago to make sure the coach was still happy with the 49ers and focused on this season.
According to a source, Harbaugh told York that he wanted to be with the 49ers for as long as they wanted him, and York and Harbaugh generally agreed that there would be serious extension talks this offseason.
Does this mean the 49ers and Harbaugh will absolutely be together forever or even through 2015?
No, it just means that in the constant NFL push-pull, the 49ers' top executives and Harbaugh cleared the air a little last week.
They were already heading toward serious extension talks, anyway.
Last summer, York and Harbaugh had informal discussions about a contract extension beyond 2015 that would've significantly raised his salary, with the 49ers presenting several different ideas.
But those talks were tabled when Harbaugh and his agent told the team that unless the extension immediately made him the NFL's top-paid coach, he'd be fine playing this out for another little while.
It's about winning a Super Bowl, and Harbaugh is betting on his ability to do exactly that ... which would vault his value into the stratosphere.
And he knows the 49ers have provided him talented players and strong support -- for one, the 49ers have the highest-paid coaching staff in the NFL, according to one source.
But the 49ers don't want to make Harbaugh the richest coach in the league until he actually wins a Super Bowl -- or perhaps until he makes back-to-back Super Bowl berths.
So the two sides will see what happens in January and February.
Again, this is not a lovey-dovey situation. There has been tension between Harbaugh and Baalke, and maybe, as Jim Trotter reported on SI.com, Harbaugh wouldn't mind some more personnel power.
There has been tension between Harbaugh and York, at times, also.
But Baalke won't be pushed aside -- York pointedly gave the G.M. a new deal that lasts one year longer than Harbaugh's current contract.
And tension isn't a big deal if it leads to a title, and if that gives Harbaugh ultimate leverage, the 49ers are OK with that.
"The only thing I'll say is he's in the third year of a five-year contract, and I love the job that he's doing," York told me Thursday.
"But now is not the right time to talk about anything like that. We've got three games left in the regular season and a potential playoff berth, and that's what everybody here's focused on.
"We'll sit down at the end of the season and talk about all this -- and I hope he has the utmost leverage when we do that ... meaning after we win a Super Bowl."
With the NFL's best and canniest coaches, you get what you pay for, and then you have to pay for it again, and then probably again a few more times.
Harbaugh is almost three full years into a five-year contract, and he has turned the 49ers into perennial Super Bowl contenders.
He's due for some extra agitation; it's really right on cue. The rest is up to the playoff results, and a little more negotiation.
49ers (9-4) at Tampa Bay
(4-9), 10 a.m. FOX
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Kansas City (10-3) at Raiders (4-9), 1:05 p.m. CBS
Raiders in search of signature win. PAGE 4