George Kittle’s offseason is likely to be just as impressive as his 2019 season.
The 49ers’ tight end has come to be regarded as perhaps the NFL’s best after just three pro seasons. In 2019, Kittle helped the 49ers win the NFC title and get to the Super Bowl, catching 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns. He also was outstanding in the running game, as a terrific blocker.
The fifth-round draft pick from Iowa in 2017, who’s just 26, was selected first-team All-Pro this past season and in 2018 set the NFL record for single-season receiving yards for a tight end, with 1,377.
Now, Kittle – who even played through a shoulder injury in 2019 -- is about to get a nice payday.
Kittle is still on his rookie deal with the 49ers, which concludes after the 2020 season. He’s been a bargain, with a base salary of just $645,000 this past season and is due to earn $735,000 this coming year.
Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reported during Super Bowl week that the 49ers want to make it an offseason priority to lock up Kittle for the long term.
Wrote Garafolo: “I am told by sources informed of negotiations that are to come, that they’re going to happen pretty soon. … The Niners are going to make this a priority, try to get an extension done with Kittle quickly. The top of the tight-end market? About $10 million per year. He’s going to blow the lid off of that. I would think you’re looking at $13 million as the floor on this one.”
Jimmy Graham of the Packers ($10 million) and Travis Kelce of the Chiefs ($9.4 million) are the highest-paid tight ends now.
Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network also noted recently that the Atlanta Falcons’ Austin Hooper can become a free agent this spring, and that the 49ers are interested in getting Kittle’s contract extended before that – so it’s not influenced by whatever Hooper signs for.
Hooper, who just completed his fourth season in Atlanta, had 71 catches for 660 yards in 2018 and 75 for 787 in 2019, and should be in high demand should the Falcons not re-sign him. But Kittle has far outperformed Hooper.