Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

PFF: 49ers’ George Kittle should take tight end market to new heights

Aug 4, 2020 at 6:26 AM--

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan didn't offer an update on the status of George Kittle's contract extension. That is, other than saying the team continues to work diligently with the tight end's camp and is optimistic that a deal will get done.

"We don't have to say how important George is to us, and not only [him] being the best tight end, to me, in the league but also the type of person he is," Shanahan said during a 30-minute-long video press conference on Monday. "We're doing everything we can to get that done. I do feel good about it."

There is no doubt that whatever deal results from the negotiations will be the largest ever for a tight end, perhaps shattering the current market value for the position by a significant margin.

"The four-year, $42 million deal that Austin Hooper signed this offseason with the Cleveland Browns is going to pale in comparison to Kittle's next contract, and rightfully so," Ben Linsey wrote in a feature for Pro Football Focus looking at the next NFL superstars in line for record-breaking contracts.

What will Kittle's new deal look like? Right now, only those involved in the negotiations know the answer to that question. There have been reports that the two sides aren't closemultiple reports. But as is the case in the NFL, things can change quickly.

Wherever Kittle and the 49ers land on a new deal, Linsey believes it will be well-deserved.

"Looking at his production over the past two seasons," Linsey continued, "it's hard to argue that Kittle shouldn't take the tight end market to new heights. He won the PFF Dwight Stephenson Award in 2019 — given annually to the best player in the NFL, regardless of position — after putting up a 94.4 overall grade (editor note: including playoffs). His after-the-catch numbers look like that of a running back, and he blocks better than most tight ends who earn their roster spots as blocking specialists."

Kittle's situation is unique. Not only is he seen as the best tight end in the league — or at the very least, a strong contender for the title — but he's been the 49ers' best receiver and one of their best run-blockers. There is, however, an argument against paying Kittle like a wide receiver.

Linsey notes that Kittle's role in the passing game isn't as valuable as someone like Julio Jones.

"He's not winning downfield routes on the outside against No. 1 cornerbacks," Linsey adds. "Rather, he's in a Kyle Shanahan offense that maximizes his ability by getting him into open space in the middle of the field where he can run by and through defenders after the catch. That's not to say that role doesn't provide value; Kittle has clearly been instrumental in an offense that continues to improve. Rather, it's reasonable to question whether his skill set that is worthy of $10 million more per year than the current highest-paid player at the position."

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