The 49ers already know that they want to keep George Kittle for the long haul, but they also know that it won’t come cheap. Kittle is on course to become the league’s highest-paid tight end of all-time. As Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com explains, Kittle’s value goes beyond the gaudy yardage and touchdown totals.
In Kittle’s 14 games last year, the Niners averaged 4.83 yards per carry and tallied 23 TDs on the ground. Without him? They averaged just 2.63 yards per carry with zero rushing scores.
“What’s amazing about him is what he does in the running game,” former NFL GM Mike Tannenbaum said. “He’s a dominant blocker and he’s been dynamic in the passing game. He’s a rare weapon that I think is more valuable than just a regular tight end because he can block so effectively.”
Then, of course, there are the obvious drivers behind Kittle’s value. Since 2017, Kittle has amassed 2,945 receiving yards, the most of any TE inside of their first three pro campaigns. in NFL history. And, in the past two seasons, he’s totaled 1,464 yards after the catch, good for No. 2 in the league.
It’s pretty much a given that Kittle will top Hunter Henry‘s $10.6MM average annual value, as well as Austin Hooper‘s four-year, $42MM watermark for the largest total contract among TEs. How much further will it go? Wagoner expects Kittle and the Niners to settle for a four-year deal in the range of $68MM-$72MM with roughly $40MM in guarantees.
Here’s more from the NFC West:
- The 49ers have the most dynamic tight end in the NFC West – and the entire NFL – in Kittle, but they don’t necessarily have the division’s best receiver group. That mantle belongs to the Cardinals thanks to their DeAndre Hopkins pickup, Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. However, Johnson notes that SF’s depth makes it a closer call than you might think. Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne profile as the Niners’ top receiving options and they’re backed by loads of potential – first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk, plus Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd.
- Earlier this month, the Seahawks brought back Geno Smith on a one-year deal to serve as a backup to Russell Wilson. It wasn’t a costly deal, as Brady Henderson of ESPN.com tweets. Smith will make just $1.2MM with his $137K signing bonus representing the only guaranteed portion of the deal. Meanwhile, he’ll count for just $887K on the cap, thanks to the minimum-salary benefit.
- As the Niners prepare to back up a Brinks truck for Kittle, the Rams are making similar plans for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Here’s a look at what it might take to keep the superstar cornerback in LA.