Kyle Juszczyk happy with role, surroundings after leaving Ravens for 49ers

Kyle Juszczyk happy with role, surroundings after leaving Ravens for 49ers

SANTA CLARA – Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is excited about returning to Baltimore for a weekend visit.

He played his first four NFL seasons with the Ravens, and three years later, he is thankful for the path his career took when he signed with the 49ers as a free agent.

“I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out,” Juszczyk said. “Honestly, I’m just more genuinely happy here. I like my role. I like the work environment better here.

“And it’s been really cool to build from the ground up, whereas when I went to Baltimore, they’d just won a Super Bowl. So I was just adding on to what was already there. Here, I was part of creating that culture, starting from the ground up.”

Many questioned the 49ers at the outset of free agency in 2017 when one of the first moves of the John Lynch-Kyle Shanahan regime was to extend a four-year, $21 million contract offer to Juszczyk. The day after he made his verbal commitment, the New York Jets offered him more money.

“We wanted him pretty bad,” Shanahan said. “I think everyone knows that by what we did to go out and get him. I’d say he exceeded expectations because you don’t know the guy totally. He’s been here, and after being with him three years, we can tell now why we liked him so much on tape because he is very talented. But just how automatic he is in all the stuff you ask him to do, just the angles of getting the ‘backers.

“Nothing seems too big for him. Some of the catches he’s made in the pass game, even though he doesn’t get a lot of them, when he does, he’s been real efficient with it and made some big plays for us.”

Juszczyk has earned the NFL’s biggest contract for a fullback during his three seasons with the club. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in both of his first two seasons with the 49ers. The 49ers are one of the few teams that run a lot of two-back personnel groups. Juszczyk is an outstanding lead-blocker who is adept at coming up with big catches when he can exploit matchups.

His weekly paychecks are not the only reason he feels fortunate to be with Shanahan and the 49ers.

“I love the way he runs the team,” Juszczyk said. “I feel like he has such a good understanding of what it’s like to be a player. Little stuff, like scheduling and our nutrition and just the way we practice. It’s little things like that, day-in and day-out.”

Juszczyk even raved about the food in the team cafeteria as “off the charts.”

He said, “Every day, they have something great. It’s whatever they got.”

[RELATED: Sherman not bothered by ex-teammate Thomas' comments]

After struggling through two seasons with 6-10 and 4-12 records, Juszczyk said he believes part of the reason for this season’s turnaround has been the ownership the players have in making sure the 49ers are successful.

“Kyle’s extremely open to input from players,” Juszczyk said. “I feel like he wants that. He gets excited when that happens. We really didn’t have a lot of opportunity for that in Baltimore.”

Juszczyk referenced the yearly change at offensive coordinator during his time with the Ravens. In four seasons, he worked under coordinators Jim Caldwell, Gary Kubiak, Marc Trestman and Marty Mornhinweg.

“There’s been more stability here,” he said. “When I went there, we had a different offensive coordinator every season, and we were always starting over on offense. So here, since I’ve gotten here, we’ve had the same staff, so it’s been good to have that continuity.”

How George Kittle's 49ers contract hurts another NFC contender's future

How George Kittle's 49ers contract hurts another NFC contender's future

Much like 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Carson Wentz's top receiving threat on the Philadelphia Eagles happens to be a tight end. But while the former two got great news Thursday with the announcement of George Kittle's and Travis Kelce's respective contract extensions, the latter's future outlook became even darker than it was before.

At this point, it's very difficult to see how Wentz will have Zach Ertz to throw to beyond this coming season. And even if he does, that likely means the Eagles won't be competitive to begin with.

Kittle and Kelce unquestionably are the two premier tight ends in the league -- in that order -- and they're now paid accordingly with the two highest annual salaries ever at the position. There's a shortlist of players in discussion for the next-best tight end in the NFL, and Ertz is on it.

Like Kittle and Kelce prior to signing their extensions, Ertz is under contract beyond the upcoming season. And like Kittle and Kelce rightfully were, he reportedly is seeking a raise commensurate with his production.

However, that's unlikely to come from Philadelphia. The Eagles already were going to be in salary-cap hell next season, and that was before Kittle and Kelce obliterated the previous tight end market.

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

The Eagles currently are projected to have over $262 million in cap liabilities for next season. Last month, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed that the 2021 salary cap wouldn't drop any lower than $175 million due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But regardless of whether the 2021 cap decreases or remains flat at $198 million, Philadelphia is going to have to cut costs to a significant degree.

Though Ertz carries a $12.4 million cap hit in 2021 in the final season of his current contract, he already seemed to be one of the most likely candidates to be cut by the Eagles, as doing so would create an additional $4.7 million in cap space. Not to mention, they already have a younger, cheaper and arguably better tight end in Dallas Goedert who makes Ertz somewhat redundant.

Assuming the Eagles actually do sign Ertz to an extension, though, that would in all likelihood increase their 2021 cap liabilities and remove their ability to create immediate cap space by cutting him. They're already going to have to part ways with some of the best players on their roster, and signing Ertz to the kind of deal he is looking for would further deplete their depth.

[RELATED: Kittle's record 49ers contract still a huge steal]

Now, the Eagles definitely could lower their 2021 cap liabilities with some creative maneuvering. Look no further than the Chiefs, who managed to sign Mahomes, Kelce and star defensive tackle Chris Jones to humongous contract extensions this offseason despite having exactly $171 in total cap space on March 30. That said, Kansas City was nowhere close to the kind of 2021 cap trouble that Philadelphia already finds itself in, and no matter how creative the Eagles get, it's not going to change the reality of the situation.

That reality would appear to be quite dark whether or not they keep Ertz around.

Tom Brady told Joe Montana Patriots didn't value input enough to stay

Tom Brady told Joe Montana Patriots didn't value input enough to stay

Perhaps nobody can relate to Tom Brady better than Joe Montana.

That might be as weird for Brady to read as it was seeing Montana play for Kansas City, considering Brady, a San Mateo native, grew up idolizing the Hall of Fame quarterback and rooting for the 49ers. But Brady has supplanted Dan Marino as sports radio callers' alternative to Montana in age-old "Which QB is better?" debates, and arguably has surpassed Montana as the greatest quarterback ever.

Brady, like Montana, will begin the twilight of his career in a uniform other than the one most associated with his journey to greatness. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency after spending two decades with the New England Patriots, and Brady told Montana he didn't think his input was valued enough by the Patriots.

"I think that was one of his beefs up there," Montana recalled to USA Today Sports' Mackenzie Salmon in an interview published Wednesday. "He told me, 'They ask my advice, I tell them and then they don't take it.' So, I think he would like a little bit of input and I think they'll probably let him have that, especially with the success he's had."

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

Montana's two-season tenure with Kansas City is a blip on the NFL's historical record, but he wasn't a bust. Before Patrick Mahomes led the team to back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances during the 2018 and '19 seasons (as well as a win in Super Bowl LIV), Montana was the only QB to lead Kansas City to an AFC Championship Game appearance since the first moon landing. Were it not for a concussion in the '93 conference championship, Montana might've helped Kansas City end its Super Bowl drought a quarter-century before Mahomes did. 

The Buccaneers would almost certainly take that, considering the franchise's anonymity since winning Super Bowl XXXVII. Montana thinks trading Foxboro's frigid winters for Tampa will do wonders for Brady's psyche.

"I think he's gonna have fun," Montana said. "He'll be in a better place for him mentally, he'll be happier and if you look at what they did offensively last year, they threw up some crazy numbers. So you add Tom into the mix and the big knucklehead tight end (Rob Gronkowski), and they'll be fun to watch."

[RELATED: Why Kittle's record 49ers contract still is a huge steal]

Brady, 45, is signed for as many years with Tampa Bay as Montana played with Kansas City. He already has two more Super Bowl rings (six) than his idol, and Brady will aim to top Montana once again by doing what he couldn't and winning a title with a second franchise.

If that happens, Brady and Montana might not end up with much left to relate to after all.