As the San Francisco 49ers progress through an unprecedented summer and offseason, George Kittle’s new contract with the team has only grown to be a more prevalent.
The two-time All-Pro selection has just followed up his record-setting 2018 season with another impressive year this past season as San Francisco made its run to Super Bowl LIV.
However, a new deal for the elite tight end is taking time, but The Athletic’s Matt Barrows recently disclosed that a conversation with an anonymous source provided a new estimate for what Kittle could be paid.
I recently spoke with someone in the know who said he thought Kittle ultimately would land a contract worth $13 million a year. That’s not the spectacular deal some were envisioning for the 49ers’ indispensable man, but it would still set the pace for all tight ends. Striking a deal that puts a player in line with a different position group — in Kittle’s case, wide receivers — is tough in any offseason and is even more difficult in this offseason of uncertainty.
$13 million is a bit less than some of the numbers that have been suggested over the course of the offseason, but would still set Kittle as the highest-paid TE by about $4 million.
Follow our feed and join our community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook!
Kittle’s Deal and 49ers’ Current Cap Space
While $13 million is less than some may expect, it is also still more than the 49ers can actually afford, with the current roster. With just under $12 million in space after taking into account the team’s 51 highest paid players, where Kittle currently sits 25th with his $2.2 million salary for 2020.
Cuts and and possible contract readjustments will open likely open up the space to get Kittle’s deal done, which is a top priority, but the 49ers and general manager John Lynch can’t afford to overspend, especially considering the second contracts the team will have to pay over the next couple seasons to retain their young talent.
There really aren’t any huge contracts for the 49ers to cut or adjust. Considering his productivity compared to other pass rushers on the San Francisco defensive line, Dee Ford’s nearly $16 million salary may feel inefficient, but it would cost the 49ers $20 million just to cut him in the first place.
So, where will San Francisco look to open up space?
Which 49ers Could Be on the Chopping Block?
It’s never easy to break off pieces of a core that nearly won a Super Bowl. It’s painful, but a necessary process, no matter how likable a player is. Look at recently retired guard Mike Person.
The 49ers reworked RB Jerick McKinnon’s contract to load up his signing bonus rather than his salary hit, and the team could look into doing the same with Tevin Coleman. It seems like Raheem Mostert is likely the team’s RB1 heading into 2020, but Coleman will be payed $4.5 million in 2020, just under $2 million more than Mostert.
Cutting Coleman would only open up $2.86 million after dead cap, so perhaps Lynch and company can readjust his deal.
Elsewhere, players like WR Travis Benjamin, who was given a one-year deal this offseason, make sense to cut due to his $1 million salary and no dead cap penalty. Another name that comes to mind is DL Solomon Thomas, who hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing since joining San Francisco.
While cutting Thomas means a dead cap hit of $4.65 million, it does open up $4.4 million in space. Moving on from Thomas would sting considering there’s still potential for him to live up to his selection, but it may be one of the best routes for the 49ers to go.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.