The San Francisco 49ers are expected to sign Kyle Juszczyk to a four-year deal when free agency opens at 1 p.m. PT on Thursday. Ian Rapoport tweeted that the deal is going to be for four years and worth as much as $21 million, and naturally that got people talking. Juszczyk is listed as a fullback, and that APY would be 2.5 times the current highest paid fullback.
However, it is safe to say, Juszczyk will not be playing a purely fullback role. We don’t know the structure of the deal or whether or not the 49ers needed to overpay, but we can already tell there is more to this than meets the eye.
On Wednesday, a couple hours before word dropped that Juszczyk would sign with the 49ers, Pro Football Talk reported that the fullback wanted to have more of a “Swiss Army Knife” type of role. If that phrase sounds familiar, it is something people used to describe Delanie Walker when he played for the 49ers. He eventually left for greener pastures, and has become a big part of the Tennessee Titans offense.
Juszczyk and Walker are actually similar in size, with Juszczyk listed at 6’1, 240 pounds, and Walker listed at 6’0, 248 pounds. Similar height and weight does not mean the players are the same body type, but it is something we can look at in the discussion of what kind of role Juszczyk might have with the 49ers.
Pro Football Focus had some interesting information about the role Juszczyk had in 2016. In 463 offensive snaps, he spent 55.4 percent of the time in pass routes, and 43.5 percent of the time blocking. Jeff Deeney broke down how much he lined up by position:
Where Kyle Jusczyk lined up on offense in 2016:— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) March 9, 2017
HB 51% (mostly pass plays)
Also played on all ST units #49ers
Shortly after word got out that Juszczyk was getting big bucks, Brandon Thorn offered up a fun flashback.
Having a feeling Kyle Juszczyk is gonna go Larry Centers circa 1995/1996 on us and I'm going to love every minute of it if it happens.— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) March 8, 2017
Centers, a FB, had 200 catches in those two seasons. Not sure KJ will go that high, but he will be a featured component of the offense.— Brandon Thorn (@VeteranScout) March 8, 2017
Between the 1995 and 1996 seasons, running back/fullback Larry Centers caught 200 passes for the Arizona Cardinals. I’m not expecting those kinds of numbers from Juszczyk, but it is clear he will be used in a variety of roles. He can play fullback, running back, tight end, and even some wide receiver depending on the situation.
The idea is to create mismatches, but also to be able to line up in different packages but running similar stuff throughout. It can keep defenses off balance, particularly in this first year as the offense is first being installed. You need talented players, but mixing that talent with deception will make it that much more dangerous.
We don’t know how this deal breaks down, but it’s clearly going to be paying more than your run-of-the-mill tight end. Even without knowing the specifics, we can safely say Kyle Juszczyk is going to be plenty active in this offense (and if I keep typing his name, I think I can build the muscle memory to make it easier to remember!).