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George Kittle Looking to Reset Tight End Market

We’re in the middle of the NFL offseason and there has been plenty of things going on around the league. We’ve seen free agency, the draft and undrafted free agents get signed in the last couple of months. The NFL released their schedule earlier this month, giving fans an idea of when they could plan to see their favorite team face their most bitter rivals. Despite most of the signings having been done what seems like an eternity ago, there are still those players out there who are looking to get extensions or new deals signed. Green Bay running back Aaron Jones is among those individuals looking for a new contract.

Another major contributor to his team’s offense, San Francisco tight end George Kittle, is also looking for a new contract. The problem is, there is a massive disconnect between the two sides when it comes to the money involved in what would be the next deal.

According to Kittle’s agent, Jack Bechta, the tight end is looking for a massive deal that would go well past what the tight end market is bearing right now. In an interview with the NFL Network’s Mike Silver, Bechta said “I don't care about the tight end market, I'm getting paid to do a George Kittle deal."

As it stands, Kittle is searching for a deal that would pay him in the range of an elite left tackle or wide receiver as opposed to just being the highest-paid tight end in the league. The highest contract that a tight end has signed was the four year, $42 million deal that Austin Hooper signed to leave Atlanta for Cleveland. Meanwhile, Hunter Henry has the highest salary among tight ends this season as he’ll make $10,607,000 on the franchise tag for the Chargers. The plan for Kittle and Bechta is to leave those numbers far in the rear-view mirror when he signs a new deal, whenever that is. He is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, worth $735,000.

Kittle has reeled in 216 passes for 2,945 yards with 12 touchdowns in his three years with the 49ers since being a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in the last two years, reeling in 88 catches for 1,377 yards and five scores in 2018. Last season, despite missing two games, he hauled in 85 balls for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. With a more consistent quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, Kittle saw his catch percentage improve from 64.7 percent in 2018 to a solid 79.4 percent in 2019. Therefore, it makes sense that he would be in line for a far better deal as he clearly has outplayed his deal as a fifth-round selection.

From the way it sounds, the 49ers are interested in coming up with a hefty contract to keep Kittle in the fold. In an interview with KGMZ-FM 95.7 The Game, general manager John Lynch said that keeping Kittle with the team is a high priority:

"George isn't going anywhere. We're going to work hard to try to get it done. I think they've got motivation just to reset the tight end market, as do we for him. It's just finding that sweet spot, where that is. ... When that happens, I don't know. But we're working hard, as are they, to try to make that happen. George is going to be a part of the 49ers for a long, long time."

The 49ers are going to have to put together a big deal in order to make Kittle and his agent happy at this point. He’s clearly looking to rewrite the salary structure of the tight end position in order to keep him in the fold. Bechta isn’t worried about upsetting the apple cart or putting pressure on the 49ers, not to mention teams looking to re-sign talent going forward. He’s merely trying to procure the best deal for his client at this stage. Kittle has proven that he is worth being near the top of the tight end food chain and he may deserve to be the top tight end on the market. Is he worth nearly 50 percent more than the top tight ends right now? That might be pushing it a bit too far. We’ll have to wait and see what transpires in the coming months.

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Chris Kubala

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