The San Francisco 49ers are going to pay George Kittle. That isn’t the question. How much are they willing to spend, and what is Kittle’s asking price? Those are the questions we need to be asking. Joe Fortenbaugh of 95.7 The Game threw out a fun hypothetical where he compared Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen’s contract—four years for $64.2 million at $16 million a year—which makes him the 10th highest-paid receiver in the NFL.
If Kittle is asking for more than what Thielen makes, that wouldn’t be surprising. Kittle is three years younger and doesn’t have the injury history Thielen has. The goal in football is to pay for future performance, and Kittle’s future is as bright as any pass-catcher in the NFL. We responded to Fortenbaugh saying, “the 49ers could give Kittle a plan check, let him sign it, and we wouldn’t be mad. He’s that good.” To those of you that responded, saying a blank check was a bad idea, thank you.
The point is Kittle is the type of player you don’t even consider let leaving. In this instance, overpaying Kittle by a couple million is worth the security and the message it’d send. Then again, we still haven’t established what an “overpay” is. Stefon Diggs, also 27, signed a deal with the Buffalo Bills worth $72 million that’ll take him through 2024 with $40 million guaranteed that is worth $14.4 million annually. Diggs doesn’t have durability concerns, either. Diggs has also had three 1,000 yard seasons in a row. The other option we’ll use is Mike Evans from the Tompa Bay Bucs. Evans, 27, hasn’t had a season in six years where he had fewer than 1,000 yards. Evans’s contract will take him through 2024 and pay him $16.5 million and will give him $40 million guaranteed.
It’s a fascinating discussion, and I’d love to be a fly on the wall as the 49ers brass speaks to Kittle and his agent. There is no argument whether the 49ers should pay Kittle. That’s going to happen. The argument is whether you want to pay the star tight end as one of the top wideouts in the league.