49ers

George Kittle cites 49ers' captaincy, leadership as holdout deterrents

George Kittle cites 49ers' captaincy, leadership as holdout deterrents

The 49ers are scheduled to open training camp late this month.

But will the team’s best player be in Santa Clara when it’s time for the team to step on the field?

All-Pro tight end and team captain George Kittle has one season remaining on the four-year contract he signed as a fifth-round draft pick in 2017.

After making $645,000 last season, his salary bumps up to $2.133 million this season due to the NFL’s proven-performer escalator. The NFL’s highest-paid tight end is Cleveland’s Austin Hooper at $10.5 million a season. Kittle is expected to become the highest-paid tight end in the league by a large margin with his next contract.

Kittle and the 49ers are eligible to work out a multi-year extension this offseason, but it does not appear the sides have made much progress toward a new deal. Kittle’s contract situation leaves open the possibility he could hold out of camp if the sides do not reach an agreement before camp is scheduled to open on July 28.

While on a conference call Wednesday to bring awareness to Gatorade’s “Beat the Heat” program, Kittle addressed the topic when NBC Sports Bay Area asked him about the possibility of a holdout.

“Being a captain, I want to be there for my team and I need to show the right leadership skills,” Kittle said.

[RELATED: Mostert asks 49ers for trade after 'unproductive talks']

Kittle deferred all other questions about his contract situation to his agent, Jack Bechta.

Bechta spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area last month. Without getting into specifics, he said there is no reasonable comparison for Kittle, who is an elite pass-catcher as well as a blocker.

“George is a very special player. He needs a special contract,” Bechta said. “And those things take time for both sides. It’s a nice problem for everybody to have.

“At the end of the day, I trust the Niners will do the right thing and take good care of George, as they should. But I trust the process. I won’t comment where we’re at, or numbers or anything like that. But hopefully it gets done.”

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

George Kittle, 49ers get to only reasonable destination with extension

George Kittle, 49ers get to only reasonable destination with extension

When teams get good in a hurry, as the 49ers did last season, there are difficult decisions that must follow.

Trading defensive tackle DeForest Buckner? Yes, that qualifies.

Holding onto George Kittle? Not exactly.

Sure, it took a while to arrive at the years, dollars and structure that agent Jack Bechta negotiated with the 49ers, but this was something that had to get done. There was no other reasonable option.

It is a five-year, $75 million contract with a signing bonus of $18 million, Bechta told NBC Sports Bay Area. The contract includes $30 million guaranteed at signing and $40 million in total guarantees.

[RELATED: Jaquiski Tartt didn't worry Jamal Adams would replace him on 49ers]

Even during a pandemic with an uncertain salary cap for future seasons, this makes complete sense for the 49ers. This was the wise decision. The recent past dictated that there was no other decision for the present and future of the franchise.

After all, if you’re not going to pay George Kittle, who are you going to pay?

It’s not hyperbole to recognize that Kittle is the most impactful offensive player -- not playing quarterback -- in the league.

At the very least, with his combination of receiving production and dominance as a blocker in the run game, there’s no other offensive player who possibly could be more valuable to the 49ers and coach Kyle Shanahan’s system.

Kittle is getting what he deserves.

And this is a load off everybody’s mind heading into the season.

George Kittle is not going anywhere for a while.

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

Jaquiski Tartt did not worry Jamal Adams would replace him 49ers' secondary

Jaquiski Tartt did not worry Jamal Adams would replace him 49ers' secondary

Jaquiski Tartt is a five-year NFL veteran, but for a few moments this offseason he was transported back to his days as an under-the-radar small-college prospect at Samford University.

Tartt was with family and friends in Florida when his cousin noticed Tartt had an incoming call from a 49ers teammate.

“It’s Richard Sherman,” his cousin told Tartt.

“So I was like, ‘Yeah, it is Richard Sherman,’” Tartt said on video call with Bay Area reporters. “So I had a little fan moment then.”

The call came during a time when a segment of 49ers fans on social media were calling for the team to acquire Jamal Adams in a trade with the New York Jets. There was no indication at the the 49ers were interested, and general manager John Lynch later revealed they were not.

“He was just trying to see what I was up to,” Tartt said of Sherman. “It had nothing to do with that (Adams). But for me, it was a moment. I remember me thinking about being in college and watching Sherm in the Super Bowl and stuff like that.”

Tartt said he never seriously considered the possibility that Adams could replace him in the 49ers' secondary.

“It’s quarantine and the media need some kind of attention, so I don’t worry about that,” he said. “It’s just social media.”

Five weeks later, Adams ended up in the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks in a blockbuster trade that involved the Seahawks parting ways with two first-round draft picks. It was important for Seattle to acquire Adams, in part, to deal with 49ers tight end George Kittle.

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

Meanwhile, Tartt goes about getting ready for his contract year. He said his main focus during the offseason was on getting healthy. Tartt missed the final four regular-season games after sustaining fractured ribs from taking an inadvertent knee to his right side from Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram.

Tartt returned to play in each of the 49ers’ three postseason games, including Super Bowl LIV. He registered five tackles and a sack in the 49ers’ 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“To be honest, I don’t even know how I was out there,” he said. “I knew my team needed me, so I made sure I was able to play and be ready. It’s football. It’s part of football, being injured, and some things stop you from playing. I’ve been through that injury before, like in 2017, it’s something you can play through.”

[RELATEDSteve Young believes 49ers must prove lasting power]

The 49ers rewarded fellow safety and his high-school teammate, Jimmie Ward, with a three-year, $28.5 million contract in the offseason. Together, as the last lines of defense, Tartt and Ward held things together last season. No team in the NFL surrendered fewer pass plays of 20 yards or more.

“This defense has a lot of good players, and we play as a team,” Tartt said. “So for us, it’s just trying to stay on the little things.”