After back-to-back Pro Bowls and a 2019 First-Team All-Pro selection, the San Francisco 49ers obviously want to sign George Kittle.
Unfortunately for San Francisco, paying the arguably best tight end in the league is easier said than done, and going nearly four months on from Super Bowl LIV, the 49ers haven’t yet any type of agreement with the former Iowa Hawkeye.
However, recent comments from Kittle’s agent Jack Bechta to NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco and NFL Network pose the question of whether the 49ers can pull off a contract that will undoubtedly set the market for premium tight ends going forward.
“Right now, there is not a comp for George,” Betcha said. “He’s unique. He’s a unicorn. He’s one of a kind.”
“George is a very special player. He needs a special contract,” Bechta said. “And those things take time for both sides. It’s a nice problem for everybody to have.
Kittle is still currently in his rookie contract after being selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He is set to make $2.133 million this season.
Bechta Speaks on the 49ers
To no surprise, Bechta didn’t limit his praise on Kittle, who recorded 1,053 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games in 2019. In 2018, Kittle brought in a league-high 1,377 yards, as well as five touchdowns.
But the agent also said he has faith that the 49ers were able to get a deal done, and that the two sides of the negotiating table are on good terms.
“At the end of the day, I trust the Niners will do the right thing and take good care of George, as they should. But I trust the process. I won’t comment where we’re at, or numbers or anything like that. But hopefully it gets done.”
“There are smart people at the Niners,” Bechta said. “They’ll figure it out. They love George, and George loves them. And hopefully it’ll all work out.”
These comments are definitely encouraging from the 49ers perspective, but it’s also important to realize that Bechta and Kittle have all the leverage here due to the 49ers’ limited cap space.
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Cap Space and John Lynch recent comments
Over the Cap estimates the 49ers’ cap space for 2020 at $15.6 million. In the context of Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry on his way to making $10.6 million after a 55-reception, 652-yard season, it only makes sense that Kittle’s contract would be significantly higher.
Is less than $15 million for the first year enough? It remains to be seen, but 49ers general manager John Lynch recently opened up about his team’s confidence.
“George isn’t going anywhere. We’re going to work hard to try to get it done,” Lynch told KGMZ-FM 95.7 The Game. “I think they’ve got motivation just to reset the tight end market, as do we for him. It’s just finding that sweet spot, where that is. … When that happens, I don’t know. But we’re working hard, as are they, to try to make that happen. George is going to be a part of the 49ers for a long, long time.”
The worst-case scenario is that Kittle plays for the 49ers in 2020 and leaves after, but that would be a massive waste of resources. Kittle isn’t just one of the top tight ends in the league, he’s also one of the team’s most valuable assets, and letting him leave after this season for nothing in return would be something San Francisco would regret.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Follow and reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier.