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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremiah: 49ers TE George Kittleā€™s annual salary could be closer to $20 million

Jun 7, 2020 at 1:31 PM--

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Everyone is trying to figure out what it will take for the San Francisco 49ers to lock up All-Pro tight end George Kittle to a long-term deal. Yes, he will become the NFL's highest-paid tight end. Yes, he will reset the tight end market, probably by a significant margin. What will that entail, though?

Right now, the league's two top-paid tight ends, when it comes to average annual salaries, are Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper, each of whom earn in the $10.5-million range. Don't expect Kittle's salary to be anywhere near that. In fact, some are starting to wonder if Kittle's annual earnings could come close to doubling that amount.

The 49ers reportedly tried to lock up Kittle in the weeks following the Super Bowl. A recent report from Michael Silver of NFL Network stated that discussions between the two sides have not progressed in the last couple of months, and they remain far apart in the negotiations.

Kittle isn't your typical tight end, though. While he's one of the more dangerous receiving threats in the league, he is also a phenomenal blocker. With Kittle in the lineup, the 49ers averaged five yards per rushing attempt last season. Without him, that number dipped to 3.5 yards per attempt.

"I think of George Kittle as part offensive tackle, part wide receiver because of his dominance in the run game," NFL Network's Bucky Brooks recently told his podcast co-host and fellow analyst, Daniel Jeremiah.

Jeremiah went on to look at the market values for the positions Brooks mentioned in an attempt to determine what Kittle might earn.

"If you look at those markets, for the offensive line, it's 16 to 18 million (dollars) at the top end," Jeremiah explains. "For wide receivers, it's 18 to 22 million at the top end. So I think he's going to find his way closer to 20 than he's going to be closer to 15 when this is all said and done with his deal because there's hybrids, guys who can do a lot of things, and that's the word we've used here for George Kittle, but then there's another level. I just call him a unicorn.

"There's nobody else like George Kittle in the NFL. He's one-of-one, who can do everything he does at the level of which he does it. That, to me, makes him, in my opinion, the most valuable Forty Niner on that team.

"He's 26 years old. He's got high character. He's a leader. These are the guys that you are OK with maybe paying a little bit more than you'd want to. I think he's going to be paid quite handsomely here, Bucky."

Jeremiah's choice of word — "unicorn" — in describing Kittle is the same one the tight end's agent, Jack Bechta, recently used.

"Right now, there is not comp for George," Bechta told NBC Sports Bay Area. "He's unique. He's a unicorn. He's one of a kind. And that's a problem for both sides."

He clarified: "Not a problem. It's a challenge."

Of course, it is difficult to negotiate a contract right now when the future landscape of the NFL remains unclear. There was hope that the salary cap would jump significantly next year, but that is now unknown given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and what that might do for revenue during the upcoming season.

H/t to Patrick Tulini for the find.

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