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Kyle Juszczyk contract remains ‘gold standard’ in discussions of bloated deals

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But is it really all that bloated?

The San Francisco 49ers have put together some strong contracts the past year and a half, but the Kyle Juszczyk contract remains one that comes under somewhat regular criticism. When the 49ers signed him a year ago, the deal paid out more than double that of the next fullback on the list. John Lynch described him as an “offensive weapon” more than a fullback, but it doesn’t change the fact that Juice got big bucks compared to others at his position.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell took a look at the 20 most outsized contracts around the NFL. He took the money paid out over the first three years of contracts, and compared it to the 20 largest three-year values at the respective position. Barnwell’s list of 20 outsized contract includes deals all of which are at least 30 percent higher than the top 20 values at the position.

Jimmy Garoppolo shows up at No. 20, but I’ve got some comments on him I want to separate out. Instead, let’s focus on the guy who tops the list, Kyle Juszczyk. The first three years, starting with his year one money last year, pay out $15.5 million. According to Barnwell’s math, that is 183.6 percent over the fullback baseline.

I get the 49ers think he is versatile, and someone who can create plenty of mismatches. And we will see more value from him in year two than year one thanks to having a better quarterback in place. But the most notable point Barnwell made was the fact that they effectively negotiated against themselves on this deal.

San Francisco also negotiated against themselves to make the Juszczyk signing. If they saw Juszczyk as a player who might be worth $5 million or more per season in their scheme, that should have been an opportunity for them to sign him at a bargain rate, given that no other fullback in the league comes close to his salary.

Paraag Marathe has done fantastic work when it comes to negotiating contracts. On the one hand, this is a relatively team friendly deal in that the 49ers can get out of it after two years without too much damage. At the same time, they are still paying a fullback a lot of money. They don’t view him as strictly a fullback, but given that they have Marathe crunching the numbers on this deal, I am curious what his thoughts were in negotiating the deal.

Juszczyk agreed to terms on his four-year, $21 million deal ($7 million guaranteed) the same day Patrick DiMarco agreed to terms on his four-year, $8.4 million ($4.8 million guaranteed). The guaranteed numbers are quite close together, so one could argue in that regard it’s not really that overpriced. It only becomes “overpriced” if he ends up playing all four years on this contract. Maybe the 49ers felt comfortable enough with their future cap space that they were willing to do it, knowing they could easily cut him after the first two years of the deal.

I’m still confused as to why the 49ers would load up the money on the back end, knowing what the market was like for fullbacks. As Barnwell noted, they also paid a premium for Jerick McKinnon earlier this year. They paid him like a running back with a significantly more proven track record. They paid a sizable chunk up front, but again, can also get out of this deal with relative ease thanks to a combination of contract structure and their large amounts of cap space.

This year is a big one for seeing how Jimmy Garoppolo and the defense both develop, but Juszczyk and McKinnon are in the spotlight, along with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan given the contracts signed.