Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

George Kittleā€™s market value could have been set by Arik Armstead, says 49ers insider

Jun 23, 2020 at 11:19 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers and George Kittle, or his representation, at least, are having a difficult time agreeing on the tight end's value. The team would like to lock up the versatile All-Pro to a long-term deal, but it's that versatility that has complicated things.

Kittle is the 49ers' most valuable receiver. He is also one of the team's best blockers. To just look at the tight end market would be an injustice. He is so much more.

Kittle's agent, Jack Bechta, has described his client as a "unicorn."

"He's just one of a kind," Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area told Will Brinson on CBS Sports' Pick Six NFL Podcast. "And the thinking is that even though here's this market for tight ends, the tight end position has about the most difficult job in all of football, maybe other than the quarterback, because you're basically asked — and in the case of Kittle, he's done this at a very high level — he's asked to run the routes, produce like a top wide receiver while also playing the position in the run game like an offensive lineman."

Maiocco notes that no matter what the 49ers choose to do in any given game, whether it be passing 45 times, running 45 times, or splitting that evenly, Kittle will be a big part of the game plan.

Kittle is also a strong presence in the locker room and is well-respected by his teammates.

What is a unicorn worth in the NFL?

The 49ers may have created a precedent with an earlier offseason re-signing, according to Maiocco.

"When you look at Austin Hooper making $10.5 million a year, and George Kittle has made not much over his first three years and is scheduled to have his salary bumped up to $2 million this year," Maiocco continued, "I mean, he's vastly underpaid. Is $10.5 million really the floor when you start to talk about George Kittle? No. I think the floor is a lot higher than that. Whether it's 13, 14, 15, 16 million (dollars), I don't know.

"Then when you look at the team's salary structure, and (Arik) Armstead is making $17 million — I mean, who's more important to the team? I just don't know what kind of middle ground you settle on when you're looking at George Kittle and the 49ers."

The 49ers in March re-signed Armstead to a five-year deal worth up to $85 million.

Then you have the uncertainty surrounding future salary caps, which makes it difficult to negotiate long-term deals when you aren't sure how the forecast looks. The COVID-19 pandemic could impact the upcoming season, generating less revenue. That could certainly impact next year's salary cap — and possibly beyond.

You can listen to the entire conversation with Maiocco below.

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