Jack Bechta, George Kittle’s agent, was on 95.7 The Game Tuesday morning to discuss Kittle’s contract. Bechta said that he was thinking about this for the past year and a half and how he has been trying to prepare Kittle and his family for the upcoming record-breaking contract.
“Negotiations take many different routes. They can go smooth; they can go fast; they can get ugly. Now, under the new CBA, we’ve lost a lot of our tools and options in terms of holding out and protesting and fines. Players are really boxed in a corner and have very limited options on how they could handle negotiations.”
Bechta, on how big of an issue Kittle’s position was in getting a deal done:
John’s a very easy guy to talk to. He’s a good listener. He grew up in locker rooms, so he’s very sensitive to the “big picture” and the tiny details. One of my mantras going through this is, ‘I’m not doing a tight end deal tied to the antiquated economics of that marketplace. Their response was always, ‘but Jack, he plays a position.’ And I’m like, yeah, he plays X, Y, F, H, he plays them all. What’s great about this is PFF and all these different sports tracks and tools that are going out and grading players since 2010 or even 2000, you can quantify a tight end in the receiving game against receivers and other tight ends and running backs.
You can quantify their production in the running game. Inside running; outside running. How many yards per carry does the team have when the player is on the field or off the field. When he’s hurt or not there, so, you know, I was able to quantify that George makes an impact as a blocker, as a receiver, yards after catch, you know, all the things that are elementary, but in a contract talk, you can back it up. What’s interesting is all of the NFL teams, I can’t speak for the Niners, are subscribing to these services, but when it comes time to negotiating, and it works in a player’s favor, they don’t tend to use them.
Bechta said his job was to remind Kittle that his love for football was equal to his love for financial security and that they are one and the same. He wanted Kittle to approach this contract extension in the same way. Bechta also said he made it clear that he would be the bad guy in negotiations if he needed to. “I’ll be the bad guy, I’ll take bullets for you, but you have to be prepared to maybe have a hard conversation with the coaches, with the media, with the owner. You’ve got to be prepared.” Bechta said the 49ers were tough in negotiations, but, ultimately, they were great.
Bechta’s message to the organization was not to throw out the threat of the franchise tag, which would have happened next offseason. If it got there, Kittle would have played this year making just north of $2 million, which Bechta called punter money. George was too important to the 49ers for that to happen, and that’s true when the scenario is reversed.
Bechta said the Chiefs, Browns, and Chargers helped by opening up their wallets and paying their franchise players during the pandemic. Bechta also mentioned to the team that, “we don’t have to do a team-friendly deal. Team-friendly deals are for guys in their 30s, play for a winner, on their third contract, and quarterbacks. It’s not for a guy that’s a fifth-round pick who is going into their second deal.”
Trust played a big factor in getting a deal done. Bechta explained how he didn’t want multiple people in the organization to talk to Kittle about his contract. In the end, both sides got what they wanted, and Kittle will continue to play for the organization that drafted him. Bechta hammered home that the biggest frustration would have been playing on the franchise tag, which hadn’t been reset since Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. He didn’t want George to pay for the sins of previous tight ends and their agents. The biggest thing for Kittle and Bechta was the contract structure and the guarantees in the deal. Specifically, against injuries. Kittle has $40 million in total guarantees. Bechta said that Kittle is easily worth $18 million, and the team knows that, though they won’t admit it. He also said if Kittle would have hit the free-agent market, his deal would have begun “with a 2,” which saying something.
Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about that, and Kittle will be in the Bay Area for the foreseeable future.