49ers Make Kittle the Highest Paid Tight End Ever

George Kittle 49ers TE

  • The San Francisco 49ers have signed George Kittle to a five-year $75M deal.
  • Kittle is now the highest paid tight end in the history of the NFL.
  • His deal includes a $40M guarantee for injury, and a $30M guarantee upon signing, including an $18M signing bonus.

The reigning NFC champions have locked up their main target.

The San Francisco 49ers have signed Tight End George Kittle to a five-year $75M contract that will make him the highest paid TE in the history of the NFL. The deal is a mammoth increase from what he made from his first three years in the league. Kittles’ rookie contract earned him a total of $1.96M in his first three seasons combined.

San Francisco and Kittle began negotiating after the Super Bowl but the talks were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the lengthy negotiation, Kittle reported to training camp and participated in all team activities. On Thursday, both camps finally reached a deal that is mutually beneficial.

Highest Paid Tight End Ever

Kittle’s new deal resets the market for tight ends. The previous highest paid player at his position was Hunter Henry of the Los Angeles Chargers who will earn $10.6 on the franchise tag this season. Kittle’s new deal easily tops that at an average of $15M per year.

As for non-tag deals, Austin Hopper’s four-year deal with the Browns pays him $10.5M per annum. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Travis Kelce was getting $9.368M per year before the Chiefs extended him later Thursday afternoon. Kelce’s new deal is worth $57.5M over four years or an average of $14.375M.

Kittle’s deal has a $40M guarantee for injury which is a ridiculous $17M better than than the previous high for a tight end,  and that was Hopper’s $23M from Cleveland. His $30M guarantee upon signing is a massive leap from the former record of $19.8M which the Detroit Lions gave then-rookie T.J. Hockenson last season. That guarantee includes an $18M signing bonus.

Exceeded Expectations

The 26-year old Kittle has exceeded expectations since coming to San Francisco as a fifth-round draft pick out of Iowa in 2017. In his three NFL seasons, Kittle has caught 216 passes, gained 2,977 total yards, and scored 112 touchdowns. His peers voted him as the 7th best player in the league, regardless of position, last season.

His 2,945 receiving yards after three seasons are the most by any tight end in the history of the NFL, surpassing the totals of Mike Ditka and Rob Gronkowski. During the 2018 season, Kittle set the NFL record for most receiving yards by a tight end in one season at 1,377. Over the past two seasons, he ranks 6th among all NFL pass-catchers with a total of 2,430 yards , 11th with 173 receptions, and second with 1,464 yards after the catch.

Aside from his numbers, Kittle is also very efficient. He led the league in reception yards per route run (minimum 300 routes run) in 2019 with 3.3 gained. His Pro Football Focus overall grade of 94.4 was the highest ever given to a tight end. It was also the highest rating given to any NFL player in 2019.

Most Impactful 49ers Player

A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Kittle is also considered as one of the best blockers in the tight end position. He forced 20 missed tackles on receptions in 2019, the most for any tight-end. Kittle helped the 49ers reach the Super Bowl last season by leading the team in catches (85) and receiving yards (1,053) despite missing action in two games.

Last season, the 49ers averaged 5.0 rushing yards per carry with Kittle on the field. That number dropped to 3.5 with him out of the field. Considering that the Niners led the NFC in rushing yards, and the NFL in rushing touchdowns, Kittle is the most impactful player on the team.

With the production that he is delivering at his position, and his undeniable impact in a Super Bowl caliber team like the 49ers, there is no doubt that Kittle deserves his massive raise. What he’s done is unprecedented so it was a no-brainer that San Francisco got him compensated.

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Shane Acedera / Author

Shane grew up watching the Magic & Bird rivalry but ended up rooting for Detroit's Bad Boys team in the 1990s NBA. He loves to tell sports stories and has been writing about sports since high school. When Shane isn't busy jotting down his thoughts, he's just chillin' at home with his wife Rocelle and their two dogs named Horry and Fisher.