Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

George Kittleā€™s 2020 salary could provide incentive to finalize deal sooner rather than later

Jul 7, 2020 at 2:48 PM--

San Francisco 49ers fans are growing increasingly tired of a lack of significant news on the George Kittle front — specifically when it comes to his new contract. During a typical offseason, a new deal would likely be done, and the All-Pro tight end would be locked up for the foreseeable future.

This isn't a typical offseason, and these aren't typical times.

That has made things increasingly difficult and is likely the cause of the contract delay. There is no telling how next year's salary cap will look. It wasn't too long ago that everyone was sure the cap would jump significantly, thanks to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and impending television deals.

COVID-19 changed all of that.

While the NFL is pushing forward as if the 2020 regular season will be played in its entirety, nothing is guaranteed. It is looking increasingly doubtful that the upcoming season won't, in some fashion, be impacted by the pandemic.

But the Kansas City Chiefs were able to sign Patrick Mahomes to a record-shattering deal.

Mahomes is a quarterback. There exist set numbers with which to base his deal. Kittle's situation is much different. Yes, he is a tight end, and there are other tight ends with which to base his potential deal. But Kittle's agent isn't using that as a starting point, noting that his client is anything but a typical tight end. The word "unicorn" has been used to describe his client.

How much does a unicorn make in the NFL?

David Lombardi of The Athletic recently responded to a question regarding Kittle's contract situation in a recent mailbag, noting other factors coming into play.

"Since the 49ers can theoretically franchise tag Kittle in both 2021 and 2022, and since he's due to make only $2.1 million in 2020, the starting point of this deal is the average of his salary over the next three years under a double-tag scenario, or about $10 million in annual average value (AAV)," writes Lombardi.

Kittle's agent reportedly seeks more. Much more. Maybe something close to double that amount because Kittle isn't just the 49ers' best tight end and overall player, he is their best receiver and one of their best blockers. So instead of looking at tight-end salaries, he may be seeking something between top-tier wide receiver and offensive lineman money.

"We're waiting to see where the 49ers and Kittle end up on the wide range between $10 million and $20 million AAV," Lombardi continues, "and pandemic-fueled uncertainty about the salary cap might be making the search for the sweet spot trickier."

The writer for The Athletic adds that, back when future salary-cap outlooks were rosier, he could see the 49ers rewarding Kittle with a deal worth over $15 million annually. The team is likely being more cautious now, hoping not to go down a road that will lead to salary-cap hell. Note: See the division-rival Los Angeles Rams.

Lombardi notes that Kittle is scheduled to earn just $2.1 million in 2020.

"And I believe that's the number that will ultimately help finalize a deal relatively soon," writes Lombardi. "In a physically strenuous league marred by frequent injuries, it stands to reason that Kittle doesn't want to play 2020 at his currently low number.

"There's incentive to finalize an agreement before 2020 kicks off — even if it's less valuable than what we expected before the pandemic in terms of AAV."

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