With head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch both signed long-term, all eyes are on a George Kittle extension.
With star tight end George Kittle entering a contract year, the San Francisco 49ers would be wise to make his extension their top priority. In addition to his fantastic blocking ability, Kittle has been arguably the league’s best receiving tight end.
After consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, the former fifth-round pick is criminally underpaid on his rookie deal. Per Spotrac, Kittle will make just over $2 million in 2020, making him one of the NFL’s best bargains. However, if the 49ers want to keep him happy, they should extend him as soon as possible.
In relation to the tight end market, Kittle’s deal is a little bit tricky. Austin Hooper of the Cleveland Browns is currently the highest-paid player at the position after signing a four-year, $42 million deal in the offseason, which is well below Kittle’s market value.
Cap space should not be an issue for San Francisco. After trading DeForest Buckner in the offseason, the 49ers have some long-term cap flexibility and can pay Kittle what he deserves. His extension should ultimately reset the positional market.
In all likelihood, Kittle’s extension will last about five years, but the annual value is tough to pinpoint. The 49ers have leverage due to his position, but CBS Sports reports that Kittle wants a contract in the mold of an offensive tackle or wide receiver, considering he basically plays both positions.
While Kittle is a better player than Amari Cooper, a $20 million/year deal like the one Cooper received appears unlikely. The 49ers will more likely have to pay him closer to $16 million per season, and a 5-year, $80 million deal with around $60 million guaranteed seems fair.
After losing in the Super Bowl in 2019, San Francisco needs to seize its title window, and locking up its star tight end seems like the best way to do that. Kittle contributes just as much to the running game as a blocker as he does as a pass-catcher. Paying him a record-breaking contract may be intimidating, but Kittle has the talent to quickly make it look like a bargain.