The 2020 NFL Draft is over, the 49ers’ roster virtually is set and the team’s virtual offseason program has started.
Among the next items on general manager John Lynch’s to-do list: Work out a long-term extension with All-Pro tight end George Kittle.
Lynch would not put a timetable on getting a multi-year extension completed with Kittle, whom he believes is going to be playing for the 49ers for a long time.
“George is certainly a priority,” Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I don’t anticipate -- you never say never -- but George is going to be Niner. We think too highly of him. I think he loves the (environment).
“We got to find the right deal and we’ll continue working towards that. We’re not going to put any timetable on that. But George is certainly is a priority for us. We love everything about him. We love everything he brings to the Niners.”
Kittle quickly became one of the NFL’s top tight ends after the 49ers selected him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. Lynch said the 49ers had him graded as a third- or fourth-round draft pick. But through hard work, desire, coaching, opportunity and many other factors, Kittle has exceeded even the most lofty expectations, Lynch said.
In his second season, Kittle established the league’s single-season record for a tight end with 1,377 receiving yards. Despite missing two regular-season games last season with knee and ankle issues, Kittle caught 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns.
Kittle and the 49ers are allowed to negotiate a contract extension for the first time this offseason. His scheduled salary for the upcoming season was increased to $2.133 million through the league's proven performance escalator.
But Kittle still is vastly underpaid. The Cleveland Browns this offseason signed free-agent Austin Hooper to a four-year contract that averages $10.5 million annually.
In addition to being the 49ers’ top receiver, Kittle also is a dominant blocker in the team’s run game.
So with all Kittle brings to the 49ers, what does that mean he is worth?
“Those are some of the challenges, I think,” Lynch said. “We understand that. And he understands that.
“These things aren’t easy. Oftentimes, they’re complex, but they’re doable. I know there’s motivation on both sides. And so I’m very confident in due time, we’ll get that done.”