49ers

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

NFL rumors: George Kittle's 49ers contract could land around $13M annually

The elephant in the room at this point of the 49ers' offseason is the absence of a contract extension for standout tight end George Kittle. He is entering the final year of his rookie deal which will pay him $2.1 million, and is due to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.

After cementing himself as the best tight end in all of football over the last two seasons, Kittle's inevitable extension has long been expected to reset the market at the position. Austin Hooper currently averages the highest annual salary of any tight end after signing a four-year, $42 million contract with the Cleveland Browns in free agency earlier this offseason.

Estimates for what Kittle could average on his next contract have ranged as high as $20 million per season, but the real number likely is somewhere between there and Hooper's annual rate due to the expected drop in league revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Athletic's Matt Barrows reported Wednesday that someone "in the know" told him that Kittle ultimately would get a contract extension averaging $13 million per season.

That's a far cry from $20 million, but as Barrows noted, it still would make Kittle the highest-paid tight end by a fairly wide margin. Though Kittle probably is worth more than that, the salary-cap uncertainty caused by COVID-19 likely will rule out the possibility of a market-shattering contract. The unprecedented situation could result in a creative deal.

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The Athletic's David Lombardi recently suggested that it might make sense for Kittle and the 49ers to come to an agreement on a contract that is partially tied to the size of the salary cap moving forward. 

"The 49ers can offer Kittle a guaranteed base annual salary or signing bonus before using a percentage-of-the-cap scale on top of that to pay him commensurate to cap increases in future years, when the NFL’s revenue outlook should be rosier," Lombardi wrote. "That's just an idea. But since this is uncharted territory, creative contract structures cannot be ruled out -- especially if they help break a potentially problematic impasse."

Creativity aside, if an agreement can't be reached on a contract extension, the 49ers would still have the ability to apply the franchise tag to Kittle -- which would pay him the average of the top five tight-end salaries -- for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. That option obviously wouldn't provide Kittle with the long-term security he likely desires, but there's ample motivation on both sides to get a deal done for San Francisco's most indispensable offensive player.

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Jason Verrett gives off good vibes as he competes for role with 49ers

Jason Verrett gives off good vibes as he competes for role with 49ers

The 49ers took a calculated gamble a year ago with the addition of oft-injured cornerback Jason Verrett.

He signed a one-year contract, and the 49ers got nothing out of Verrett. He struggled with a knee condition, saw action in just one game, struggled, then spent the final four months of the season on injured reserve.

So it came as a mild surprise the 49ers decided to re-sign Verrett in the offseason to another one-year deal.

That can mean only one thing: The 49ers saw enough from being around Verrett last season to have a level of optimism he can make a difference this year.

“He looks very focused,” 49ers safety Jimmie Ward said of Verrett. “Looks ready, too.

“I can feel his vibe. He’s anxious to get back on the field just to show people what he can do because he’s a former Pro Bowler.”

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

Verrett, like Ward, entered the NFL in 2014 as a first-round draft pick. And, also like Ward, injuries have greatly impacted his career.

[RELATED49ers safety Jimmie Ward could fill expanded role on defense this year]

Verrett has played more than four games in a season just once in his career due to knee, Achilles, shoulder and hamstring injuries. In 2015, he played 14 games with 13 starts. He registered three interceptions that season for the San Diego Chargers and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

“He came out in the draft with me, so I always watched him since college,” Ward said. “I know what he can do. It’s just all about going out on the field and staying consistent with it.”

Verrett, 29, could compete for a starting job at right cornerback against Emmanuel Moseley and Ahkello Witherspoon. He also has the ability to play nickel back behind K’Waun Williams.

NFL rumors: Tavon Austin visiting 49ers; contract hopeful for both sides

NFL rumors: Tavon Austin visiting 49ers; contract hopeful for both sides

Speedy wide receiver Tavon Austin reportedly could be heading to the 49ers.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday morning that Austin is scheduled to visit and work out for the 49ers in Santa Clara with the sides hoping it leads to a contract.

Austin, 30, is coming off a season with the Dallas Cowboys in which he caught just 13 passes for 177 yards and one touchdown in 14 games. He averaged 4.9 yards on 17 punt returns.

The 49ers are short on wide receivers after Travis Benjamin opted out due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deebo Samuel and Richie James are on the non-football injury list due to injuries sustained in offseason workouts. General manager John Lynch recently said the 49ers are bracing for Samuel to miss regular-season games due to the foot fracture he sustained in June.

[RELATEDHow 49ers' depth is affected by opt outs]

Austin entered the NFL as the No. 8 overall draft pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2013. However, he did not consistently produce during his five seasons with the Rams and two years with the Cowboys.

In seven NFL seasons, Austin has 215 receptions for 2,006 yards and 15 touchdowns. His best seasons came in 2015 and ’16 with the Rams when he caught 110 passes for 982 yards and eight touchdowns over 31 games.

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