George Kittle is right to seek something more than tight end money

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The 49ers and tight end George Kittle aren’t close on a new deal because Kittle and his agent want the player to be paid as something more than a tight end. There’s a good reason for that position, because he is.

Kittle is a football player. He does everything he’s expected to do at the highest possible level, and his energy and passion for the game raises the level of those around him.

For example, if games happen without fans this year, every team will need players who get guys who otherwise need the adrenaline of a crowd to get them going. On the 49ers, that guy is George Kittle.

He loves football. He loves everything about it. He loves it so much that would play for free.

But since the game generates billions for the owners and since the best players get the biggest pieces of salary-cap pie, his passion for the game isn’t going to become a willingness to play for less than he’s due. That’s his absolute right. It’s the right of every player to try to get every penny he can, while he can.

Unlike a quarterback or a receiver, Kittle is in the fray. Blocking and getting tackled and getting hit and getting hurt. While he has the will and/or the DNA to play through many injuries, he’s constantly at risk of suffering the kind of injury through which he can’t play — and from which he possibly won’t ever be able to return.

Kittle’s pay for 2020 will be based on the last year of his rookie deal; he’s due to make $2.133 million. Absent a long-term deal, he’ll likely get the franchise tag in 2021. This year, that’s $10.6 million — the lowest of all positions other than running back ($10.2 million) and kicker/punter ($5 million). Next year, it’s unclear what the franchise tags will be, given that they are tied to the salary cap and given that the salary cap may drop this year.

Whatever it is, Kittle absent a long-term deal would be eligible for the franchise tag in 2021, a 20-percent raise in 2022, and then he’d be eligible for the quarterback tender in 2023 under the franchise tag, another 20-percent raise under the transition tag, or a shot at the open market.

Kittle, 26, has the right to refuse any offers the 49ers make and push his way through a pair of franchise tags and to the open market. If he’s still healthy at 29, there would surely be a team that embraces his skills, abilities, mindset, and heart. And even if he doesn’t ever get top receiver or left tackle money, the only way any player can maximize his value is to get to the open market.

The other way to get close to top dollar, of course, is to hold out and agitate for a trade, like former Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack did. The 49ers probably won’t want to trade Kittle, but if they also don’t want to pay him what he wants, they’ll have to ask whether they prefer three more years of Kittle with a compensatory draft pick a season after he exits as a free agent or whether they are willing to sell high in the next year or so, sending him to a team that would value what he brings to the table significantly enough to both give the 49ers what they want in trade compensation and to give Kittle what he wants in salary.

However it plays out, Kittle already has transcended the position he plays. He’s not wrong to want a contract that does the same. And even though it will take three seasons to get there, he has a way to eventually make himself available to anyone else who would see his value the same way.

28 responses to “George Kittle is right to seek something more than tight end money

  1. Jimmy G should restructure his salary so we can get this done before the season starts! Kittle is the lifeblood of the Niners!

  2. As an NFL fan I would support a Kittle holdout – that would be a critical blow to the SF offense as he is the only reason $28m man Jimmy G looks competent out there.. and the run game would be snuffed out

    This is the Browns fault for resetting the market on a player like a good-not-great like Austin Hooper

    Kittle deserves to be paid NOW – like I supported a Zeke holdout due to his performance and short life of RB careers

  3. Kittle is the best TE in the game and should be paid top TE money.
    He’s not a WR.

    Given his age, the 49ers will tag him twice and let him leave at age 29 when most players begin to decline.
    If Kittle is tagged twice then he’s getting paid top dollar according to the CBA, and then he can get paid on teh free market if he’s still producing. It’s not like he’s getting screwed over.

  4. I wouldnt put Kittle (or any WR) in the $20m range – but if Hooper is worth $11m then Kittle should be in the $15-16m range

  5. These ‘tags’ are a boon for the owners. They suppress and restrict the market for elite players. Barring the elimination of them there should be a tag which allows a team keep and more importantly a player to receive what he is worth. Call it, an ‘Elite’ tag or something that pays the player his real value to the team not a slotted position scale. Their salary wouldn’t fall in the position pay scale. It recognizes a player and position outside of the QB. Give each team one or use it instead of the franchise tag. Plus it would eliminate the player holdouts and bad blood between player and team.

    Kittle is a great example of paying, probably their best player, more than TE money. SF has the salary leverage and probably not too keen on resetting the TE market. McCraffrey is good example, he’s in between/hybrid player. Of course Tepper just re-set the RB scale out of wack. A separate tag would eliminate that.

    This gives teams an out and a payer gets paid.

  6. Kittle just needs to stay healthy so they can get overpaid as an FA in decline, just ask Jimmy Graham.

    The franchise tag doesn’t work well for tight ends.

  7. If he wants to be paid like a top wr or top left tackle like his agent said maybe he should play those positions

  8. So, you’re saying he’s better than every other tight end that’s ever played because they were all paid as tight ends? Has he transcended Gronk, Kelce, Gates, Gonzalez, Sharpe? To me the answer is no, so why does he deserve to be paid differently?

  9. I dont agree. I DO agree that hes the best TE in the game right now, but hes not a wr or a tackle so shouldnt get paid as such. I dont see any articles supporting dual threat running backs that catch balls and make plays in the passing game, asking for them to get wr money. Or that punter(not sure which team, maybe the rams) who has completed several passes on fake punt attempts. Nobodys saying he should get qb money and not be getting punter money. I know that’s a stretch but you get the point. Kittle isn’t physically equipped to be a wr or a tackle and if he was, he’d be lined up in that position. Having those super elite physical traits is very valuable in itself and that is why those guys get paid like that. Not only do you have to be good, but you have to have those rare physical abilities. Just like basketball players. You can be good, but if you aren’t blessed with most of those physical tools(height,speed,burst)then you’re not going to make it and get that big nba money. Like I said, kittle is the best TE in the game, so he should get paid as the best TE in the game.

  10. He’ll get a deal that pays in between what the 49ers are offering and top WR money. They’ll guarantee a little more than usual. He’s not going anywhere.

  11. Add me to the list of people that disagree with the premise of this article. He picked his position. That he is a great TE and contributes as a great TE is a credit to him. Let him get paid for it. Team players (unlike their agent$) understand that there’s only so much money to go around and demanding too much brings down the talent level of the rest of the team. Greed is NOT good when it comes to NFL teams.

  12. So one of the few TEs that can do all of the jobs they’re “supposed” to do and you think he deserves more than TE pay? That’s the exact mentality that got these players pay to the point it is and why teams have to overpay just to get a decent one. Personally I wouldn’t give him anything more than top TE money and if he doesn’t like it then there’s the door because there’s 52 other players and they all want paid too, can’t overpay too many and still field a good team. Overpaying too many will put the team in cap hell for years to come.

    BTW the 9ers only have $15mil in cap space so he’s not getting top WR or tackle money!
    They should take notes from the Eagles on what not to do because all of those huge contracts the Eagles have been handing out has them at $50mil over the cap for next season so they’ll be sending a few of their best players down the road just to get under the cap, can’t shave $50mil off the cap by letting lower paid and league minimum players go so some big names won’t be with the Eagles next season.

  13. He’s about as dominate as Gronk in his prime – but last we saw of Gronk he was a shell of his former self. He’s a much superior blocker to Kelce – and the rest retired a LONG time ago lol Gronk is a good example of why NOT to wait until youre 29.

  14. Kittle loves money more than winning football. If he gets too much money, there won’t be enough left to build a good team around him. Guys like Tom Brady want to win more than the maximum salary. Brady was underpaid by New England for years but he did not complain. He is still underpaid, as he gets less money this season than Russell Wilson and Jared Goff are getting. TE is not the most important position in football. Push comes to shove, Frisco may have to either trade him or allow him to become a free agent. if they cannot reach a deal.

  15. Kittle is a very good TE. It’s a QB league, so, once again, the team with the league’s best QB won the super bowl. Kittle should probably be up their with the highest paid TE’s in football, but you can’t break the bank for every good player. I’ve always felt that if a player was that good, he’d have lots of endorsement deals that would more than make up the money. Kyle Shanahan can get an offense to score lots of points because he’s an outstanding coach. He’s taken two teams to super bowls and neither had an elite QB. Shanahan is the guy who should be making the money.

  16. He absolutely has the *right* to *seek* more money. That doesn’t mean he deserves to get TE+WR money, nor does it mean any fan or writer should care if he doesn’t get it.

  17. Absolutely he is. Comparing himself to a top LT or WR is not accurate. But he should be paid based off of production and he finished 23rd in receiving yards last year and 8th in 2018. In 2020 he deserves around $15m a year but definitely not 20 plus.

  18. Wouldn’t be the first player/agent to overplay his hand value wise. SF may well be willing to play tag twice and see if he’s healthy/still productive at 29. Brutal position physically, not many have a long term career there.

  19. If you guys are worried about kittle living money I suggest you do an inventory of players that are making more money than they should: case in point your qb who is the epitome of average. Kittle is the best in the league at his position and should be paid as such. He’s not a finesse pansy tight end like Jimmy graham and he’s not a one note blocking brute either but it can be argued he’s the best at both. Where was the last time we could say that (maybe Gronk 5 years ago?). It’s a good problem to have but if San Fran can’t part with one of the 20 d tackles and running backs they have in their team to help pay for the most dynamic te in the game, 31 other teams would be glad to.

  20. Overpay him..cripple the teams salary cap….thats what lousy ran teams do….
    4 years 48 million with 36 guaranteed sounds very reasonable…. if he won’t do that, then do the franchise game with him…..
    He’s a TE, plain & simple….the rest is just noise

  21. I like the comparison with the greatest TE ever to play, it’s funny, and Kittle is talented, but he’s not at Gronk’s level.

  22. If i were the Niners front office i sit Kittle’s agent down and watch last years Super Bowl and ask the agent to show them how many big plays Kittle made in the Super Bowl, the tight end on the other team (Kelce) actually showed up and contributed way more than that yahoo Kittle.

  23. californianewton says:
    May 31, 2020 at 4:51 pm
    Kittle loves money more than winning football.
    _______________________________

    But the thing Kittle loves even more is ATTENTION, he’s never seen a camera or a MIC he could pass by!

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