ORLANDO, Fla.--Jim Harbaugh joined the Colin Kaepernick Contract Chorus on Wednesday and then, as usual, Harbaugh started soloing and took over the whole song.

"I think we all know what Colin's earning potential is," Harbaugh said at the NFC coaches media session on the final day of the league's annual meetings.

So, Jim, what's the salary figure Kaepernick should get in a new contract extension from the 49ers?

"Pretty much know what the numbers are," Harbaugh said with a smile.

To that point, Harbaugh declared Kaepernick is "one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL," which starts the bidding at something close to $18 million a year.

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh congratulates quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) for throwing a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis (85) to make the
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh congratulates quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) for throwing a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis (85) to make the score 23-6 against the St. Louis Rams in the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. The 49ers won, 23-13. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group) (Josie Lepe)

Harbaugh's comments followed similar statements by CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke about their desire to extend Kaepernick's deal, which currently runs through the 2014 season.

But Harbaugh took it further, spending much of his session detailing exactly why Kaepernick is worth mega-money and why the 49ers' passing-game struggles in 2013 weren't the QB's fault.

All in all, it was a virtuoso Harbaugh good-mood performance, 57 minutes of kinetic energy, open answers and rat-a-tat conversation, including ...

  • Harbaugh insisted nobody in the 49ers locker room would begrudge Kaepernick's leaping to the top of the team's pay scale -- currently topped by inside linebacker Patrick Willis' $10 million annual average.


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    "(Kaepernick) deserves that, that's what he deserves," Harbaugh said of the top spot in the payroll. "That's what the market pays for that job, and nobody attacks it more than he does. Nobody wants to be great like he does."

  • For the first time, Harbaugh confirmed Kaepernick suffered a foot injury early last season -- likely in the Week 1 victory over Green Bay -- that affected Kaepernick's running and throwing for several weeks.

    "I could notice it, especially in practice," Harbaugh said of the injury. "(Kaepernick) doesn't verbalize it and says he's fine, says he's going to play through it. Which I respect.

    "I mean, if it ever got to the point where I felt like it was hurting him, or an injury could be worse, or he was hurting the team, then I would step in."

    Kaepernick didn't miss a single practice or game in 2013, Harbaugh pointed out.

  • Why did the 49ers go through such a terrible offensive lull midway through last season?

    Because defenses were swamping Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis, Harbaugh said, and nobody else got open for Kaepernick.

    Harbaugh added it's up to the coaches to design better plays and the 49ers to find a better third receiver.

    "There was a stretch there last year where he didn't have (open receivers) -- and he played through it," Harbaugh said of Kaepernick. "And never an excuse, never a bony finger of blame toward anybody.

    "There were definitely times where we just were not getting guys open for him. ... There was tough sledding at times."

  • Noting the absence of open receivers, Harbaugh fired back at analysts, most notably Trent Dilfer of ESPN, who critiqued Kaepernick for being a limited "one-read" QB last season.

    "So-called experts that you're talking about (as Harbaugh dropped into a thin nasal voice), 'Oh, the 1, the 2, the 3, the 4 ...' " Harbaugh said, calling out hypothetical read progressions with a fierce laugh. "Uh, you know, they're not sitting back there in that pocket. ... Let's move on. Before I get emotionally hijacked."

  • Yes, as widely suspected, the 49ers coaches decided to pull back on the Kaepernick run-option plays last season to keep him as healthy as possible.

    "We didn't want to see Colin get hit 12 times a game," Harbaugh said. "Thought four or five maybe, that's it. That was a conscious effort."

    The QB-run plays weren't put back in heavy rotation until the 49ers' stretch drive, Harbaugh said.

  • Harbaugh reiterated what he told SI.com last month: His relationship with Baalke is solid and is nothing they want outsiders to dwell on.

    On Tuesday, both Baalke and York acknowledged there are competitive tensions within the management structure, but that it's inevitable with strong, successful personalities such as Harbaugh and Baalke.

    "We don't like to talk about it that much (as) 'Trent and Jim,' you know?" Harbaugh said. "This is a team effort here."

  • Harbaugh once again shrugged off Cleveland's attempt to trade for him earlier this year, calling the media speculation surrounding it "another mini-controversy -- been there before."

    Harbaugh has two years left on his contract, and York said Tuesday that he intends on signing Harbaugh to an extension at some point.

    On Wednesday, asked directly if he'd like to remain with the 49ers beyond 2015, Harbaugh was emphatic.

    "I love coaching this team, I love the players, I love the coaches and the organization that I serve," he said. "And want to be here for a very long time."

    After the formal session was over, Harbaugh asked me if the meetings had been interesting enough to justify my trip.

    The answer: Yes. The Raiders are tremendously interesting, and the 49ers have Harbaugh, who always knows precisely what he's doing, who he's helping, and how to make it more and more interesting.

    Read Tim Kawakami's Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him at tkawakami@mercurynews.com.

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