The San Francisco 49ers have had a busy offseason. General manager Kyle Shanahan and head coach John Lynch were wheeling-and-dealing at the 2020 NFL Draft to help the team contend for the Lombardi Trophy again next year.
Before we get to the end of the 2020 season, one order of business that needs to be taken care of is superstar tight end George Kittle’s contract extension.
The Sacramento Bee’s Chris Biderman (h/t MSN.com) says the 26-year-old is in line for a record-breaking deal that will see him paid among the best pass catchers in the NFL, which usually isn’t the case for his specific position.
Kittle is slated to make a little more than $2.2 million next season. With NFL players always being one hit away from a career-ending injury, Kittle may not want to step back on the field until he gets some long-term security. How much will that cost?
Here is what Biderman wrote:
“That “sweet spot” could come significantly higher than any other tight end has been paid. Austin Hooper in March signed with the Cleveland Browns for four years and $44 million that included $23 million in guarantees. His $11 million annual average is the highest in the league for the position and just over the $10.6 million value on the franchise tag.”
No disrespect to Hooper, who is fine player, but Kittle has been the better tight end the last three years. The Iowa product finished 2019 with 85 receptions for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. PFF ranked Kittle as the best tight end in the league after last season and it is just not because of his pass catching abilities.
According to PFF, Kittle is the only tight end in the NFL to rank in the top-five in run-blocking grades and scored above 70.0 over the past two seasons. Kittle’s versatility is key to Shanahan’s offense and his ability to stretch the field as well as create holes cannot be replaced.
As Biderman points out, the coronavirus pandemic will cause the NFL salary cap to drop over the coming years due to a projected loss in revenue. The 49ers will have more than $49 million in cap space following next year, giving them some room to work with on a Kittle extension.
If we are using Hooper’s contract as a measuring stick, I would say a five-year deal with an average of $15 million could be a starting point, with $45 million guaranteed. It may sound like a lot to pay a tight end, but Kittle is a special talent.
As Biderman wrote:
“According to Pro Football Focus, Kittle led the entire league in yards per route run (3.12), an average that accounts for times a player was used in the passing game. It was significantly higher than Thomas’ (2.88), Stefon Diggs (2.69), Jones (2.44), Davante Adams (2.33), Mike Evans (2.30), Amari Cooper (2.29), Chris Godwin (2.24) and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (2.23).”
We all know how important Kittle is to the team and Lynch has already said this offseason that the tight end “isn’t going anywhere.” Great, because we love seeing highlights like this:
How much do you think Kittle’s extension will be worth?
Onto some more links:
Shanahan and Lynch said receiver Brandon Aiyuk was at the top of their list going into the 2020 NFL Draft. Lance Zierlein of the NFL Network joined KNBR and said moving up to get him at No. 25 was a Belichick-type move.
Speaking of Aiyuk, the 22-year-old pass catcher has been making the media rounds since being a first-round pick. Aiyuk spoke to the NFL Network about joining the 49ers and being welcomed to the team by fellow receiver Deebo Samuel. (h/t NBC Bay Area)
The Niners are expected to be amongst the NFL elite next season. But, do they have any weaknesses? SI’s Jose Luis Sanchez looks into if the 49ers have any remaining needs heading into the 2020 season.
There is always one team that goes from worst-to-first in their division. Last year, it was San Francisco in the NFC West. NFL Network’s Gil Brandt ranked which defending division champion is most vulnerable going into 2020.
We all love Frank Gore. Even at 36 years old, the 49ers all-time leading rusher is still producing in the NFL. NBC Sports’ Josh Schrock says players like Gore and Marshawn Lynch have carved out lengthy careers at a position where most don’t last.