49ers

How 49ers intend to gain East Bay foothold with Raiders in Las Vegas

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AP

How 49ers intend to gain East Bay foothold with Raiders in Las Vegas

The 49ers have moved on to Super Bowl LIV. The Raiders have moved on to Las Vegas.

Regardless of which (former) Bay Area NFL team you root for, it's been an eventful week for that franchise. San Francisco sits one win away from its sixth Lombardi Trophy. While Oakland ... err Vegas ... officially changed residences.

Many Raiders fans will follow the team to Sin City, whether through in-person support or from afar. But certainly, there will be others who change allegiances or simply stop watching the NFL altogether, as a result of the pain from watching their hometown team depart for purported greener pastures.

The 49ers are sitting pretty regardless, but with the Raiders now officially out of the region, they're in a position to capitalize even further.

Success breeds fan interest, and as the NFL's surprise team this season, the 49ers have been riding a wave of increased fan support during their path to Super Bowl LIV. A large portion of that increase has emanated from the East Bay, and as The New York Times' Ken Belson reported prior to the 49ers' 37-20 win over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game, San Francisco has plans to gain an even greater foothold in the region with the Raiders now operating elsewhere.

"We would never try to convert Raiders fans,” 49ers chief marketing officer Alex Chang told Belson. "It’s a multigenerational play here for people who are transplants or kids who are growing up here now and won’t have the Raiders."

As part of San Francisco's efforts to establish a greater presence in the East Bay, the 49ers intend to expand their number of charities and free flag football programs in the region and to invite more East Bay school children to their science and technology programs. For obvious reasons, there is a clear focus on the younger audience, but San Francisco isn't necessarily trying to change their loyalties.

"We want kids to be 49ers fans," 49ers chief administrative officer Hannah Gordon said, "but it’s not like we want someone not to be a Raiders fan."

As the 49ers go about this expansion effort, the organization can look to its next opponent for proof that it can be accomplished. As Belson noted, the Kansas City Chiefs have been very successful in converting former fans of the St. Louis Rams, who left for Los Angeles in 2016. While the fan anger might not ever entirely subside, Chiefs president Mark Donovan told Belson that ticket sales and sponsorship from the St. Louis region remain on the rise.

While the Raiders have dominated fan support in the East Bay throughout their time in Oakland, their constant flirting with the idea of leaving combined with San Francisco's recent success has resulted in a major shift this season. Belson noted that, according to Fanatics, 49ers merchandise sales in the East Bay have increased by 250 percent compared to last year.

[RELATED: Five moments that defined 49ers' journey to Super Bowl LIV]

With the Raiders moving to Las Vegas and the 49ers looking like a team built to contend for many years to come, one can expect that number to increase even further next season.

Programming note: NBC Sports Bay Area feeds your hunger for 49ers Super Bowl coverage with special editions of “49ers Central” all week (5:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; 6:00 p.m. Friday).

How George Kittle's new contract compares to tight ends, NFL stars

How George Kittle's new contract compares to tight ends, NFL stars

A record-setting tight end deserves a record-setting contract. And that's exactly what the 49ers handed George Kittle on Thursday morning. 

Kittle's agent, Jack Bechta, confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco that his client has agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract extension. That is the largest contract handed out to a tight end in NFL history, and it's not even close. 

Kittle was the set to earn just over $2.1 million this season as he entered the final year of his rookie contract. He has been incredibly underpaid since the 49ers took him in the fifth round of the 2017 draft, to say the least. Ahead of the 2020 season, they took care of that and kept him in Santa Clara for a very long time. 

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

This whole time, Kittle and his agent have been looking for a contract that properly fits what he brings to the 49ers. He's much more than just a tight end. Kittle is the closest thing to a unicorn in the NFL, someone who thrives as both a blocker and receiver. His peers voted him as the seventh-best player, not just tight end, in the NFL for a reason.

When it comes to top receivers, he still has a ways to go. Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones leads the way with $22 million in avergae annual salary. Among receiver, Kittle would come in at 12th, right behind Jarvis Landry of the Cleveland Browns ($15.1 million). Even Brandin Cooks ($16.2 million), who only had 583 yards receiving last season, makes more than Kittle.

[RELATED: Kittle, 49ers' front office come to only reasonable solution]

The highest-paid 49ers receiver, however, is Kendrick Bourne at just under $3.26 million.

Kittle has proven he's far and away the best tight end in football. He's now paid like that, along with being a top receiver as well.

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]