49ers

Examining George Kittle, 49ers complications of reaching new contract

Examining George Kittle, 49ers complications of reaching new contract

George Kittle has been a constant since the tight end came to the 49ers as a fifth-round draft pick in 2017.

But, because of the uncertainty of these times, there are unforeseen complications that come with working out a long-term contract agreement, according to league sources.

Agent Jack Bechta declined to get into any specifics of the contract negotiations for his client recently when he spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area. But it is clear he expects Kittle’s next contract to set a high bar for the tight end market.

“George is a very special player. He needs a special contract,” Bechta said.

One prominent NFL agent who has a good grasp of the NFL’s tight end market believes the 49ers can save a lot of money now with a long-term contract that greatly exceeds the current deal for Austin Hooper, who signed a four-year, $42 million deal with the Cleveland Browns this offseason.

“Every day they wait, he gets more expensive,” said an agent of the 49ers on Kittle. “They would be smart to just bite the bullet and give him, say, $14 million per season and $30 million guaranteed now. In two or three years, it will look like they got off easy.”

But the 49ers likely are reluctant about doling out a ceiling-shattering contract in the middle of a pandemic. NFL salary caps are determined by NFL net revenues. There are some estimates the cap could topple by tens of millions of dollars per team next season.

The NFL Players Association on Monday estimated games played in empty stadiums this season would likely amount to a loss in revenue in the range of $3 billion. Those projected losses would be passed onto the players in the form of a shrinking salary cap, beginning in 2021.

Perhaps, the NFL and the players union could come up with some solution to mitigate the pain of lost revenues. But if there is a significant drop in the NFL salary cap, most long-term deals could suddenly become too pricey for the salary structures of teams around the league.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

One agent told NBC Sports Bay Area he does not envision such a significant loss in NFL revenue that would impact long-term contracts.

He believes the season will open with half-full stadiums and “ridiculous TV ratings.” There could also be new opportunities for in-stadium, in-game advertising tailored to the TV audience. The agent believes record media deals can make up for a lot of the lost gate revenue.

But that is not likely a complication that Bechta, working on behalf of Kittle, considers when negotiating a contract for the best player at his position in the league. After all, the agent’s job is to make sure his client receives a fair contract.

But what is fair for a player with such unique skills?

Kittle was the winner of the Bill Walsh Award in 2018, when he set the NFL record for tight ends with 1,377 receiving yards. Last season, Kittle was voted as the winner of the Len Eshmont Award, the team’s most prestigious honor, for courageous and inspirational play.

Kittle is the 49ers’ top pass-catcher, as well as being a dominant force in the running game as a blocker.

He enters this season in the final year of his contract. After making less than $2 million total over his first three seasons, Kittle is scheduled to make $2.133 million this season through the proven performance escalator.

Where does Kittle rank in importance on the team? Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo earns an average of $27.5 million per season, while both Arik Armstead and Dee Ford are scheduled to make $17 million annually through the life of their contracts.

[RELATEDAfter Kyle Shanahan's new 49ers contract, focus turns to John Lynch]

After three seasons in the NFL, this is the first offseason in which Kittle’s rep and the 49ers are allowed to negotiate a multi-year contract extension.

Kittle is under contract for this season, but he could force the 49ers’ hand by holding out until he gets an acceptable long-term deal. If Kittle does not play hardball, the 49ers could. The organization holds Kittle’s rights this season and could keep him another season or two with franchise tag designations.

Neither side would want it to come to that. Both sides should be motivated to get a deal done before the opening of training camp this summer.

But, at this point, it does not appear a deal is anywhere close to coming together.

49ers' Nick Bosa 'not going to blame ref' for big Super Bowl no-call

49ers' Nick Bosa 'not going to blame ref' for big Super Bowl no-call

Third-and-15.

Three words that will forever be linked to the 49ers’ inability to close the door on the Kansas City Chiefs in the middle of the fourth quarter of their Super Bowl LIV loss at Hard Rock Stadium.

Third-and-15 conjures up a bunch of “what-if” scenarios. The 49ers led by 10 points. They'd lose the game by 11. That play on third-and-15 gave the Chiefs a chance.

It took a while for Tyreek Hill’s downfield route to develop. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes needed time in order for Hill to fool 49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley into believing his destination was the deep middle of the field. Mahomes had just enough time to allow Hill time to break his route back outside.

What happened at the beginning of the play made the 44-yard pass completion possible. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa appeared to beat Kansas City left tackle Eric Fisher with an inside move. But Fisher steered Bosa clear of Mahomes with his right arm wrapped around Bosa’s right ribcage.

Months later, does Bosa believe he was held on the play?

“I’ve gotten that question a bunch,” he said with a laugh during a video call with Bay Area reporters.

“I don’t like thinking about that game very much, but I have gone back and watched up until the fourth quarter and, um, was I held? I mean, it comes down to the opinion of a human being. So that’s what refs are. They’re human beings. So if they think it’s holding, they think it’s holding. It could’ve been holding. It could’ve not been holding. It just depends on what he thinks.”

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Referee Bill Vinovich did not reach for his flag, and the play stood.

Bosa did not have a chance after Fisher got his arm around him. Meanwhile, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who lined up inside of Bosa, was a split-second late in getting to Mahomes.

“I’m not going to say that’s the reason we lost the game because there were plenty of opportunities where I could’ve done better,” Bosa said of the no-call. “I could’ve done better on that move on third and 15. I’m sure Buck is kicking himself. He thinks he could’ve done better on the wrap and gotten there a little quicker. I’m not going to blame the ref, by any means.”

Buckner is now with the Indianapolis Colts after the 49ers traded him for a first-round draft pick that was used to select his replacement, Javon Kinlaw. Buckner is the only defensive starter who does not return for the 49ers this season.

[RELATED49ers' Bosa expects Kinlaw to 'kill it' in rookie season]

All the holdovers will use third-and-15 as “good motivation,” said Bosa. After all, his rookie season fell just short of the ultimate prize.

“First year, you get there and you’re seven minutes away and a nightmare of a situation happens,” Bosa said. “So you could bet we’re going to come back pretty strong this year if we’re able to get 16 games in and the playoffs.”

49ers sign veteran O-lineman Spencer Long to compensate for opt-outs

49ers sign veteran O-lineman Spencer Long to compensate for opt-outs

The 49ers on Saturday signed veteran offensive lineman Spencer Long, according to his agency JL Sports.

Long joins the 49ers at the end of a week that saw two of the team’s linemen -- Shon Coleman and Jake Brendel -- opt out due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Long, 29, is a six-year NFL veteran. He played four seasons with Washington from 2014 to ’17, starting 31 of the 40 games in which he appeared. He started games at left guard and center.

[RELATEDColeman, Benjamin opt-outs hit 49ers' depth in unusual year]

Long played the past two seasons with the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. He started all 13 games in which he appeared at center for the Jets in 2018. He was a backup last season with the Bills, seeing action in 14 games.

Long is expected to compete for a job on the 49ers’ roster as a reserve interior offensive lineman.

Wide receiver Travis Benjamin also opted out of the season.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]