George Kittle

49ers, George Kittle Far Apart In Talks

The 49ers and George Kittle have begun extension talks, but they’ve got a ways to go. Kittle’s agent Jack Bechta says there’s a major gap to bridge and, perhaps, some fundamental disagreement over how Kittle should be viewed.

[RELATED: Dee Ford Underwent Knee Surgery]

I don’t care about the tight end market, I’m being paid to do a George Kittle deal,” Bechta said.

Since 2017, Kittle has amassed 2,945 receiving yards, the most of any tight end in their first three seasons – and that’s not counting the playoffs. And, since 2018, Kittle’s had 1,464 yards after the catch, more than any other player in the league not named Christian McCaffrey.

Meanwhile, Kittle’s blocking has been a game-changer for the 49ers’ run game. In Kittle’s 14 games last year, SF averaged 4.83 yards per carry and tallied 23 rushing touchdowns. In the two games he missed, 49ers running backs averaged just 2.63 yards per try with no TDs.

With that in mind, Bechta is aiming higher than Austin Hooper‘s four-year, $42MM deal with the Browns. Instead, Kittle’s agent is using the wide receiver and left tackle markets as comps to reflect his client’s value. Kittle, 27 in October, doesn’t have to settle for “tight end money” in exchange for his prime seasons. Instead, he could land something in the neighborhood of $18MM per year with a larger guaranteed portion than Hooper, who has just over 50% of his deal truly locked in.

The 49ers appreciate Kittle’s value and they’ve made his extension a priority, so we still expect a deal to come together. However, it may take a bit longer than expected for them to meet in the middle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Kittle, Seahawks

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:

Latest On 49ers, George Kittle

The tight end market has not moved much over the past half-decade. The Patriots refused to give Rob Gronkowski a new deal, and other teams did not move their lower-profile tight ends too far past the future Hall of Famer on the position’s salary spectrum.

Jimmy Graham‘s $10MM-per-year pact, which the Packers seem likely to move on from, currently tops the tight end market. But the 49ers will be tasked with modernizing this. They are set to meet with George Kittle‘s representation at the Combine and have already begun preliminary extension discussions, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Kittle’s agent, Jack Bechta, said (via Barrows) he will proceed with considerable patience in negotiating this deal with the 49ers. The uncertain CBA status supports that strategy, but Kittle should be expected to enter the 2020 season with a contract far more lucrative than any tight end’s current deal.

Coming off two dominant seasons, the two-time Pro Bowler is primed to raise the bar for tight ends considerably. The 49ers are prepared for this. Buzz about near-future cap spikes being greater than they were under the 2011 CBA could well affect this situation. The prospect of free agent tight ends Hunter Henry, Austin Hooper and Eric Ebron seeing big deals figure to help Kittle take the market to a new level as well.

Extensions for Kittle and DeForest Buckner will be priorities this offseason in San Francisco. The 49ers also have Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Sanders on track for free agency. The team currently holds just $13MM in cap space — far less than it did in recent offseasons. But some big money will need to be earmarked for Kittle, a 26-year-old star who graded as Pro Football Focus’ top 2019 player.

Extra Points: CBA, XFL, 49ers, Kittle

There apparently could be a CBA vote coming on Thursday, and we now know of an interesting new provision. The proposed CBA would change the way fifth-year options for first-round picks work, letting some top players cash in before they can get to free agency, sources told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. “If a first-round pick makes it to the Pro Bowl twice in his first three seasons, the amount of the fifth-year option would spike to the franchise tag for his position,” Florio writes. The current system is a bit complicated, with players drafted in the top 10 getting the transition tag price for their position in their fifth years.

Players not drafted in the top 10 get even less. Obviously this would only apply to a narrow slice of players, but it would represent a big pay bump for some of the league’s elite players prior to hitting the open market. As Florio points out Jalen Ramsey, the fourth overall pick in 2016, is set to make $13.7MM in 2020, which is the transition tag price for cornerbacks. Under the new proposed system he would’ve been set to make $16.4MM due to hitting the Pro Bowl requirement. We just got another update on the proposed marijuana policy, and we should hear a lot more about the new CBA this week.

Here’s more from the football universe:

  • The XFL has received a fair amount of buzz, and things certainly appear to be better set up than they were for the ill-fated AAF. One way for them to get even more buzz would be to land a big name amateur player, and the league is keeping that option on the table. “We do have the ability to sign a college freshman or sophomore. …. We haven’t dipped our toe in that pond, but we could in the future,” XFL commissioner Oliver Luck said during a recent appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, via Andrew Perloff (Twitter link). The XFL has had a fairly successful launch, but given that they currently aren’t even offering six-figure salaries, it’s still a bit hard to envision a top college player willingly departing the NCAA ranks.
  • We’ve heard that the 49ers plan to make an offseason extension for George Kittle a priority, and it probably can’t be overstated just how much Kittle is going to reset the market. The report from a couple of weeks ago was that Kittle’s floor would be around $13MM annually, and as former NFL agent and current CBS Sports analyst Joel Corry points out, the top of the market has been stuck at around $10MM annually for a while. Corry notes that Jimmy Graham became the first $10MM tight end all the way back in 2014, but that the market has been completely stagnant ever since. In Corry’s piece, which is well worth a read, he takes a look at how the salaries for the position are going to change big time around the league. Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper are about to be free agents, and several other big names are going to get new deals soon. It’ll be very interesting to see what number Kittle ends up getting.

49ers To Prioritize Extension For George Kittle

The 2019 NFL season is officially in the books. The 49ers just lost the Super Bowl in heartbreaking fashion, but they have to shake it off quickly and turn their attention to the offseason. Star tight end George Kittle is set to enter the final year of his rookie deal in 2020, and it sounds like San Francisco isn’t going to let him get anywhere close to free agency.

The 49ers are going to prioritize an extension for the Iowa product, and negotiations will begin “as soon as after the game,” sources told Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter video link). Garafolo thinks Kittle will “blow the lid off” the top of the tight end market, and that $13MM annually is the floor of what he can expect to get on his new contract. As Garafolo points out the current top of the market is around $9-10MM for guys like Travis Kelce, so it sounds like the market is truly going to be reset.

Given the numbers Kittle has put up during his brief time in the league, those figures aren’t shocking. A fifth-round pick in 2017, Kittle has performed well beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. In 2018 he set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,377, and he’s been an All-Pro in back to back years.

In addition to his receiving prowess he’s also one of the best blockers in the league, and he’s the engine of San Francisco’s NFC championship winning offense. As Garafolo’s NFL Network colleague Ian Rapoport pointed out in the same video, the 49ers have adopted an organizational philosophy of locking guys up early and rewarding their own, so it should only be a matter of time before Kittle gets paid. It should help the sting of the Super Bowl loss. The 26-year-old recently revealed that he’s been playing with a torn labrum, but that he doesn’t plan on getting surgery.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

George Kittle Will Not Get Surgery On Torn Labrum

At the tender age of 26, 49ers TE George Kittle has become arguably the best tight end in football. And his performance over the past several seasons is even more impressive in light of his recent revelation on a Pardon My Take podcast (h/t Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk).

Kittle said that he has played the past two seasons with a torn labrum, which he sustained in a 2018 preseason game. However, he has not gotten surgery on the injury and does not plan to.

“I can’t miss those workout days, man,” Kittle said, adding that there is “no chance,” he goes under the knife.

Assuming that he can tolerate the pain, there may be no reason for Kittle to get surgery, at least until his playing career is over. As Williams points out, Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence played through a labrum tear for two seasons, though he ultimately did have it surgically repaired. Kittle, meanwhile, will continue to wear a protective sleeve to combat the injury.

The Iowa product is eligible for an extension for the first time this offseason, and he may be the player to finally reset the tight end market. Jimmy Graham‘s $10MM AAV has paced the market for years, and Trey Burton and Jordan Reed are currently at the top of the heap in terms of total guarantees ($22MM). Kittle should exceed both of those figures, and San Francisco is expected to prioritize a new deal for him.

Of course, before that happens, the 49ers will vie for their sixth Super Bowl title. Kittle’s performance in this weekend’s title bout will likely play a major role in the outcome of that contest.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Cards, Mahomes, Jacobs, 49ers

David Johnson‘s usage this season has irked numerous fantasy owners, along with Johnson himself. The fifth-year running back has stayed off the Cardinals‘ injury report for weeks but has taken a backseat to trade acquisition Kenyan Drake. This pattern (and explanation for it) has not sat well with Johnson, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The $13MM-AAV back declined to address his future with the team but was not satisfied with the reason Arizona’s coaching staff gave him for his significant workload reduction (Twitter links).

Ankle and back maladies sidelined Johnson earlier in the year, but he’s been active for four straight games, seeing 12 total carries in that span. Although Johnson’s 366 receiving yards still have him on pace to eclipse his 2018 total, he is averaging less than four yards per carry for a second straight season. The three-year, $39MM deal Johnson signed in 2018 runs through 2021. The soon-to-be 28-year-old back’s $10.2MM 2020 base salary is fully guaranteed.

Let’s take a look at the latest from several other teams in the West divisions, starting with the status of the Chiefs’ most important player.

  • The bruised throwing hand Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered did not turn out to be a significant issue. Mahomes, who said Sunday night his hand “didn’t feel great,” returned to full practice Wednesday. The reigning MVP said (via ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher) Wednesday was the first day he could grip the football, but he’s expected to suit up against the Broncos. Mahomes has battled a sprained ankle and a dislocated kneecap but has missed just two games.
  • An MRI Josh Jacobs underwent produced good news for the Raiders running back. The offensive rookie of the year candidate is expected to play against the Jaguars on Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Jon Gruden, however, did not commit to the first-round pick playing in Week 15. Jacobs missed Week 14 with a shoulder malady he’s been battling, giving way to free agent-to-be DeAndre Washington.
  • Extensions for cornerstone 49ers DeForest Buckner and George Kittle will take precedence over retaining contract-year breakout defender Arik Armstead, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Armstead has been dominant in his fifth season, leading the 49ers with 10 sacks, but was inconsistent in his prior four seasons. With Armstead playing more at defensive end than D-tackle, it would cost them nearly $18MM to use the franchise tag. The 49ers tabled Buckner extension talks until 2020 and can begin negotiating with Kittle in January. The team is projected to hold $24MM in cap space — 25th-most in the league.
  • In addition to the ACL tear Rashaad Penny suffered in Week 14, Pete Carroll noted the second-year running back may have sustained more damage in his injured knee, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. The Seahawks running back’s upcoming surgery will provide more clarity on his timetable.

NFC West Rumors: 49ers, Cooks, Gordon

The 49ers (and certain fantasy owners) may well have to make other plans at tight end this week. George Kittle drew a doubtful designation for San Francisco’s pivotal Week 10 game against Seattle. The All-Pro candidate is battling knee and ankle injuries, and although he played eight games with torn rib cartilage last season, Kittle is likelier than not to miss the nationally televised game. Levine Toilolo and second-year UDFA Ross Dwelley reside as the other tight ends on the 49ers’ roster.

Veteran Garrett Celek could be activated from the PUP list, however. Celek has been dealing with a back injury for months but returned to practice this week, per ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner (on Twitter). While the 49ers are not against activating Celek for Monday, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required) the team would prefer he go through multiple practice weeks before debuting this season. Dwelley and Toilolo have combined to catch nine passes for 38 yards this season.

Here is the more from San Francisco and the latest from the NFC West:

  • In more promising 49ers injury news, the 49ers may get both of their tackles back this week. With Joe Staley expected to return this week, Mike McGlinchey may join him. The second-year right tackle worked in three limited practices this week. He has been out since Week 5 due to arthroscopic knee surgery. Staley also participated in three limited practices this week. Despite both of San Francisco’s tackles being out for much of the season, the 49ers’ run game ranks second in the NFL.
  • The team’s Chase McLaughlin acquisition will likely lead to game work. Robbie Gould joins Kittle in being given a doubtful status. Gould, who has not missed a game since his 49ers tenure began in 2017, is dealing with a quad injury.
  • In advance of the Rams‘ road assignment against the Steelers, Brandin Cooks has spent time in Pittsburgh because of concussion trouble. Cooks has made multiple trips to Pittsburgh to meet with doctors over the past two weeks, Omar Ruiz of USA Today tweets. The Rams wide receiver remains in concussion protocol and is out for Sunday’s game. Cooks has suffered two concussions this season, one in 2018 and one in Super Bowl LII. The 26-year-old receiver is not considering retirement and still wants to return this season (Instagram link).
  • Josh Gordon‘s Seahawks debut is likely set for Monday night. Despite being on the Patriots’ IR list to start last week, Gordon was not listed on the Seahawks’ injury report. Pete Carroll said there’s a “good chance” the recent waiver pickup plays against the 49ers, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The former All-Pro played in six Patriots games, catching 20 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown.

49ers’ Kwon Alexander Done For Year

That’s a wrap on Kwon Alexander‘s season. The 49ers linebacker will miss the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets

Earlier today, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters that he was nervous about the MRI. After doctors reviewed the scans, they confirmed his (and Alexander’s) worst fears.

The Niners signed Alexander to a four-year, $54MM deal in March with $27MM guaranteed. Former Bucs star and current 49ers GM John Lynch was high on Alexander – perhaps a touch higher than other clubs this offseason – but things haven’t gone according to plan in the 25-year-old’s first season with SF. After missing 14 games between 2017 and 2018, he’ll miss the second half of the ’19 campaign, plus the playoffs.

Through eight games, Alexander rates as Pro Football Focus’ No. 33 ranked linebacker in the NFL (though, PFF’s metrics have never been high on his work). At the time of his season-ending ACL tear in 2018, PFF had him as the 53rd-ranked LB in the league.

On the plus side – Shanahan believes that tight end George Kittle’s knee injury is a short-term issue. Also, the 49ers are 8-0 – that also helps to ease the pain of losing one of their defensive starters.

The 49ers topped the Cardinals on Thursday night to keep their undefeated streak going. On Monday Nov. 11, they’ll return to action to face another division rival when they take on the Seahawks.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Rosen, Kittle, Newton

Amidst a deluge of trade speculation concerning second-year QB Josh Rosen, the Cardinals opted against making Rosen available to the media last week. But Rosen himself spoke to SI.TV (video link) about his uncertain status with the club, and while he did not disparage Arizona, he certainly sounded frustrated. He said, “I definitely understand the situation. I mean, it’s annoying but, like, it is what it is. Football’s a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions. . . . Whatever decisions are made, it’s my duty to prove them right if they keep me, and prove them wrong if they ship me off” (h/t Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk).

Now for more from around the NFC:

  • Regardless of who the Cardinals‘ QB is in 2019, RB David Johnson will be getting a ton of touches, both in terms of carries and as a receiver. Johnson said (via Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic), “[m]y role this upcoming season, from talking to the coaches, is that I’m going to hopefully get the ball a little bit more.” New head coach Kliff Kingsbury recently said he will build his offense around Johnson, who will be asked to earn every penny of the big-money extension he inked last September. Assuming he can remain healthy, Johnson should be able to tally at least 1,800 all-purpose yards.
  • 49ers tight end George Kittle posted a whopping 1,377 receiving yards last year, and as Matt Barrows of The Athletic (subscription required) writes, Kittle recorded 797 of those yards while injured. Barrows reports that Kittle suffered fractured cartilage in his rib cage early in the team’s Week 9 win over the Raiders, and that he wore two large rib protectors for the rest of the season. It sounds as if Kittle is (or will be) fully-recovered, and he is prepared to build on his monster 2018 campaign.
  • Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said QB Cam Newton has gotten a lot of his range of motion back, and while Newton hasn’t resumed throwing yet, that time is coming (via Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer). However, Rivera stopped shy of giving a timetable for Newton’s return.
  • As Rodrigue writes, the Panthers have been taking a look at this year’s collegiate passers, which has sparked some concern about Newton’s status. But Rivera and GM Marty Hurney downplayed the meaning of their QB scouting, and Rivera said, “I don’t think we’ve spent any more time on quarterbacks (this year) than we have in the past.” Rodrigue says the club remains optimistic about Newton’s progress, and while the Panthers could select a quarterback if the right player falls to them, they are not going to reach for one, and they are going to keep their focus on reviving the pass rush and bolstering the O-line.
  • Yesterday, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed that the club will be exercising Ezekiel Elliott‘s fifth-year option, and as Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk writes, Jones also said that he will “obviously” be looking for a strong backup for Elliott. Rod Smith was the team’s No. 2 RB last year, but he is still a free agent, and it sounds as though Dallas wants an upgrade. The Cowboys are unlikely to invest a high-level draft choice on an RB given that Elliott will get the lion’s share of the touches, but a quality Day 3 prospect could be in the mix.