George Kittle is the best tight end in football and he's about to get P-A-I-D handsomely by the 49ers.
General manager John Lynch has said he expects the 49ers and Kittle to come to an agreement "in due time." How much will the All-Pro tight end rake in? Former New York Jets general manager and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum believes Kittle's deal will be massive due to one particular aspect of his game.
"What's amazing about him is what he does in the running game," Tannenbaum told ESPN's Nick Wagoner. "He's a dominant blocker and he's been dynamic in the passing game. He's a rare weapon that I think is more valuable than just a regular tight end because he can block so effectively."
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But what does a massive Kittle contract extension look like? Austin Hooper signed a four-year, $42 million deal this offseason with the Cleveland Browns, making him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL. Kittle's is sure to blow that out of the water. Kittle almost certainly will seek top wide receiver money, which Tannenbaum believes he can get.
"I would certainly say it's probably toward the upper end of where the wide receivers are just from a standpoint of he's a dominant offensive player," Tannenbaum said. "You look at what a guy like Christian McCaffrey got, I think that's much more in the ballpark from the standpoint of you don't just label Christian McCaffrey a running back. I don't think you just label George Kittle a tight end."
McCaffrey signed a four-year, $64 million extension with the Carolina Panthers in April. His deal comes with around $38 million in guaranteed money. As for the wide receivers in the NFL, Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones is at the top of the list at $22 million per season, with Amari Cooper in second at $20 million. Michael Thomas ($19.25 million), A.J. Green ($18.1M), Tyreek Hill ($18M) and Odell Beckham Jr. ($18M round out the top of the list.
Kittle should slide in somewhere under them, where Mike Evans ($16.5 million), Brandin Cooks ($16.2M), Adam Thielen (16.2M) and DeAndre Hopkins ($16.2M) all reside.
A contract in the $64-$74 million range with around $35-40 million in guarantees should be a deal both sides are looking to achieve.
"When you've got someone of George's ability, you prioritize that," Tannenbaum said. "He's such a transcendent player. ... You just have to sit down with your head coach and your owner and say, 'There's going to be a significant premium paid for this player and we have to figure out where we're going to get it from.' It may be the guard, it may be the third linebacker, but let's all just agree that we're going to have to take it from somewhere because this is such a good player. It's a no-brainer to get Kittle signed to an extension; it's just about making sure we understand how we fit everyone else around him."
Kittle is an indispensable piece of the 49ers' puzzle. Not only is he the best pass-catching tight end in football with almost unparalleled YAC ability, but, as Tannenbaum noted, he's also a dominant run blocker who loves demoralizing opponents in the run game. He's also a key part of the soul of the team and is working to become a better leader in order to help quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo pilot the ship.
Kittle isn't going anywhere. It's just a matter of how much it costs to keep him.