Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Young says 49ers ‘have to’ pay George Kittle like a wide receiver

Jul 20, 2020 at 7:15 AM--

Add Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young to the list of those who want to see the San Francisco 49ers lock up All-Pro tight end George Kittle at any cost, even if it means playing him like a wide receiver.

Kittle isn't a wide receiver, but he is the team's best receiver, having gained over 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons. That includes a 2018 campaign during which he hauled in 88 passes for 1,377 yards, which set an NFL single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end.

Those are elite wide receiver numbers, and Young, who joined KNBR last week, believes it is enough to blow the roof off the tight end market.

"I don't really care what position, I don't really care what tight ends make or wide receivers make," Young said on the Tolbert, Krueger and Brooks show (h/t to Alex Didion of NBC Sports). "Just the importance that he has to the team is incredible, and no matter how you cut the data, it's proven. George Kittle is one of the most talented players in the league, and most productive.

"So then, they're gonna have to pay him as a wide receiver. They're gonna have to, and George knows that. The problem is, there might be a hybrid. I agree that he's not going to necessarily make every dollar that a wide receiver makes, but he's not going to get trapped into the tight end spot."

Young goes on to explain that the 49ers have proven that they are willing to make the difficult decisions if they feel it is what's best in the long-term, using the trade of DeForest Buckner as an example. He adds, however, that he can't envision team decision-makers making the same type of call with Kittle.

"I think, right now, they seem to be doing everything very disciplined to make sure that they put a great team out there," Young continued. "Unfortunately, you're going to see guys leave when you're not ready for it, but it won't be George Kittle. There's no way that could happen."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Young below.

A recent discussion on NFL Network also had the Good Morning Football hosts making their case for Kittle to earn wide receiver-type money.

"Travis Kelce signed a huge deal three years ago, $9.3 million a year," said Kay Adams. "He's the third-highest paid tight end. There are 26 wide receivers set to make more than Travis Kelce in 2020. And there's nothing wrong with these receivers, but they aren't impact guys like Kelce (or Kittle) is to their respective teams."

She added that the top tight ends in the NFL are "pathetically" paid, and Kittle can drastically reset the market for his position group.

"I'm telling you, San Francisco, lock this guy in and give him the biggest contract you can," added Nate Burleson. "Reset the market, if that's what it takes; pay him like a wide receiver, if that's what it takes, because guys like this don't come along every year."

San Francisco made Kittle a fifth-round selection out of Iowa in 2017. He has since earned two Pro Bowl selections, and this past season earned first-team All-Pro honors.

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