Now that the NFL draft is over, the focus for the San Francisco 49ers shifts to extending their best player. General manager John Lynch was on 95.7 The Game Thursday morning discussing the future of George Kittle:
“Well, you know, we made an attempt at it early. George is a huge part of this organization, and I think you saw it the other day. He had me in tears with his tribute to Joe Staley. George is usually clowning around and all that, but he spoke to who he is as a teammate and why we all love him, aside from him being an insanely productive and good tight end. Soo, we’re interested. George isn’t going anywhere. We’re going to work hard to try and get it done. I think they’ve got the motivation to really reset the tight end market, as do we fo him. It’s just finding that sweet spot and where that is. As I said, he’s not going to go anywhere. When that happens, I don’t know, but we’re working hard to make that happen, as are they. George is going to bee a part of the 49ers for a long, long time.”
The question isn’t if Kittle will become the highest-paid tight end in the NFL, but by how much? Heading into the draft, the 49ers had a little more than $15 million in cap space, and now that they’ve added five draft picks—two being first-rounders—San Francisco has just under $7 million in salary-cap space.
Extending Kittle will create more space, and it’s safe to assume the Niners’ front office will get creative. Look at Arik Armstead’s contract. He has a $6 million cap hit in 2020 before it doubles in 2021 and reaches $20 million in 2022. We could see Kittle’s contract structured similarly. Kittle deserves whatever figure he gets. He’s the best player at his position and should be paid as such.
Lynch also mentioned the 49ers are unlikely to pick up Solomon Thomas’s fifth-year option: “So I don’t think that’s an absolute or it doesn’t mean that we love don’t Solomon,” said Lynch. “I think we’re incredibly encouraged. Solomon’s going to (have) a big part.” We’ve seen teams around the league picking up or declining fifth-year options all week. The deadline to do so is Monday, May 4. Here is more from Lynch:
“Everybody’s who’s watched us knows we rotate a lot of players there. We believe in them going as hard as they can and then we rotate, kind of like hockey lines. Solomon’s going to be a big part of that rotation. We’ve kind of charged him with putting a little weight on. Last year he got really light, which helped in his quickness, but I don’t know if he had enough substance in terms of weight. And so he’s going to come back a little heavier.”
I’ve seen whispers about Thomas moving inside full-time as a defensive tackle, and I wonder if the added weight gain confirms that. Though Lynch said they wouldn’t pick up Thomas’s option, that doesn’t mean Solomon is on his way out.