NFL Free Agency

NFL rumors: 49ers' George Kittle expected to reset tight end contract market

kittleap.jpg
AP

NFL rumors: 49ers' George Kittle expected to reset tight end contract market

George Kittle, entering the final season of his four-year rookie contract, is in line for a big payday when he eventually signs a contract extension with the 49ers. But the tight end reportedly is one of a handful of players expected to reset the market at the positon this offseason. 

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday morning that "[multiple] sources around the [NFL]" think Kittle, Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper (a pending free agent) and Philadelphia Eagles star Zach Ertz (one year, $6.4 million left on his contract) are set to "redefine the value" of tight ends with big paydays this summer. 

Kittle set the NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end last year, and he leads the 49ers with 60 receptions for 754 yards this season. He is in the top five among tight ends in both categories, despite missing two games with -- and subsequently playing through -- a serious ankle injury. 

Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph ($9.35 million) was the highest-paid player at the position not on a rookie deal this season, and Kittle's reported likelihood to set precedent for tight ends drives home the 49ers' financial realities this offseason. DeForest Buckner also is eligible for an extension, while breakout defensive tackle Arik Armstead is eligible for free agency. 

[RELATED: NFL coach still not sold on 49ers' Jimmy G in long term]

Over The Cap projects the 49ers having just over $24 million in salary-cap space next season, which would make it difficult to extend all three players, especially if the final year of Kittle's -- and/or Buckner's -- deal is restructured. The 49ers can free up space by cutting players such as running back Jerick McKinnon and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, and NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco wrote Saturday that he can't see McKinnon playing on his 49ers deal as is in 2020 or Goodwin playing for San Francisco at all. 

The 49ers likely will prioritize re-signing Kittle and Buckner. Based on Kittle's career and Schefter's reporting, they know the tight end won't come cheap. 

49ers get better idea of cost to retain Arik Armstead on franchise tag

49ers get better idea of cost to retain Arik Armstead on franchise tag

The 49ers now have a good idea of what it would cost to place the franchise tag on defensive lineman Arik Armstead.

Here’s a hint: It won’t be cheap.

Armstead is enjoying his breakout season along the 49ers’ defensive line. After registering nine sacks over his first four NFL seasons, Armstead this season has compiled a team-leading 10 sacks in 13 games.

The 49ers picked up the fifth-year option a year ago and are paying him $9.046 million this season. But his price tag will rise significantly next season.

Joel Corry, a former NFL player agent and current salary-cap expert for CBSSports.com, projects the franchise tag for defensive ends to be $17.95 million for the 2020 season.

A player qualifies at a specific position based on where he played more snaps. Armstead has played more snaps at defensive end than defensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.

[RELATED: 49ers fear nose tackle Jones out for year with ankle injury]

As much as the 49ers would like to retain Armstead, the team also wants to save as much cap space as possible to be able to sign such players as DeForest Buckner and George Kittle to multi-year contract extensions in the near future.

Buckner is expected to receive approximately $14 million in salary next season on the fifth-year option. Kittle is in line for a big new contract when his deal is up after the 2020 season.

NFL teams were informed at a league meeting this week that the 2020 salary cap is projected to jump from $196.8 million to $201.2 million. Corry came up with his numbers for the franchise and transition tags based on a projection of $200 million for the 2020 salary cap.

In 2020, teams are allowed to use both the franchise and transition tags on players scheduled to be free agents in the spring, Corry explains.

The non-exclusive franchise tag means that another team can sign a tagged player to a contract, but the original team has five days to match the contract terms. If that team does not match, it would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation. The exclusive franchise tag comes at a higher salary and prevents other teams from negotiating with the player.

A transition tag gives the incumbent team only the right to match a contract. There is no compensation for a team that chooses not to match an offer sheet for a player who is tagged as a transition player.

Teams are allowed to name their franchise and transition players beginning Feb. 25 through March 10.

49ers' Arik Armstead primed for lucrative payday amid breakout season

armsteadap.jpg
AP

49ers' Arik Armstead primed for lucrative payday amid breakout season

SANTA CLARA -- In a new scheme and with pending free agency, 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead has set himself up to become one of the highest-paid defensive linemen in the NFL.

“He has 10 sacks in a contract year,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said on Sunday, following the 49ers’ 37-8 victory over the Green Bay Packers. “The Brinks truck is going to back up for him. Beep, beep.”

Armstead never really found his niche in his first four seasons with the 49ers. He registered nine sacks in his first 46 games. Whether the team was playing a 3-4 or 4-3, Armstead was often shuffled from defensive end to defensive tackle.

After being a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2015, Armstead experienced injuries that limited him to just 14 games in his second and third seasons. This season, he has taken off to lead the 49ers' dominant pass rush.

When asked about Armstead, teammate Jimmie Ward referenced his teammate Kwon Alexander’s favorite word, “Legendary.”

“He’s been kind of on the same track as me over the past few years with a few injuries," Ward said. "This year, he put it all together.”

There is little doubt Armstead has thrived under defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and the team’s aggressive wide-nine alignment. The mindset is to get the quarterback at the snap of the ball, then change course if it is a running play.

“Our style of play, it’s benefitted all of them, but probably him the most, just in terms of never having to kind of read and react,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Just being aggressive every play, going right at the quarterback, reacting to run. With his length and size, just allowing him to be a little bit more decisive and the rest has been him. He’s had no hesitation and he’s stayed healthy.”

Armstead had a hand in three sacks against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night. He had one solo sack, sharing two others with DeForest Buckner and Jaquiski Tartt.

[RELATED: Grading 49ers' offense, defense in blowout win vs. Packers]

Armstead also got pressure on Rodgers on a key third-down play on the first series, enabling linebacker Fred Warner to force a fumble that Nick Bosa recovered at the 2-yard line. Tevin Coleman scored a touchdown on the next play to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.

The 49ers completely hounded Rodgers, who averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per passing attempt.

“Going into this game we knew that it was going to come down to that,” Armstead said. “To first stop the run and then get after him and put them in bad situations, we were able to do that tonight. I am so proud of my teammates, so proud of everyone especially my D-linemen and the rest of the defense on how we played.”

Armstead is making $9 million this season on the fifth-year option. Whether the 49ers place the franchise tag on him or he receives a multi-year contract, Armstead could be looking at an offseason deal that pays him from $16 million to $20 million.