When the 49ers rewarded Patrick Willis yesterday with a five-year extension that is reported to be valued at $50-million dollars, the club showed us that they view the 25-year old linebacker as one of the premier players in the entire league. And, we should all agree that Willis has shown the production on the field that deserves big money in the NFL.

But, what is more important from a player’s point of view is the message this new deal sends to the rest of the San Fran locker room—because they are all watching.

Players in this league want to be rewarded, but they also want to know that the owner, the front office and the head coach are going to be in their corner when they are producing on Sundays. Call it taking care of your own or just call it getting what you deserve, but when a team decides to extend a player that is still under contract, it sends a good message to that locker room.

Make plays and we will take care of you.

I am usually split down the middle when it comes to contracts, holdouts, etc. If a player isn’t performing, then an NFL club has every right to terminate that contract and tell a guy to go clean out his locker. I get that and I’ve seen it myself firsthand.

But, when a player is outplaying that contract and continuing to show up for a team like San Francisco, who should be favored to win the NFC West this season, then pay the guy. Show him that he is being noticed for his performance on the field and give him some “new money.”

Especially for players that are drafted by the club. That is how you build a franchise and that is how you start to develop a winner. Teams like the Green Bay Packers do it all of the time. They reward the core group of players that will be in that uniform for eight to ten years. Smart business and smart football.

That wins in this league.

This is just another sign and another reason to like what Mike Singletary is doing with that ball club in San Fran. A solid draft—one that had people talking—and now this deal which locks up one of the better defensive football players in the NFL.

And, a locker room that now sees how production will be rewarded.

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