George Kittle Signs Five Year, $75 Million Extension

The best tight end in the NFL ended months of negotiations with the 49ers as the highest paid tight end in NFL history and by a wide margin. Kittle’s $15 million per year average blows away the top of the NFL tight end market which was at just $10.5 million a year, nearly a 43% increase, basically the top “market buster” in the last five years in the NFL.

Assuming that the $15M a year average is the actual base value and not an inflated number based on incentives this is a big win for Kittle. The traditional market jump for a top player would have usually maxed Kittle out around $13 million a season. Here is what I had written a few months ago about market busters when discussing Kittle.

Few players in the NFL have been able to “break the system” and become a market buster. A market buster is a player whose contract far outshines any current player at the position and in many cases will actually maintain a top contract status for some time. That second part doesn’t always happen (i.e. Todd Gurley) because sometimes the contract is the shot in the arm the position needs, but few get there. Instead the NFL has pinned nearly every player into a small positional box with very small incremental gains.

If we look at each position these would be the closest that any had to a market buster since 2014

PositionPlayerYear SignedAnnual ValueTop Market CompIncrease
RBTodd Gurley2018$14,375,000$8,250,00074.2%
RTLane Johnson2016$11,250,000$8,000,00040.6%
LBCJ Mosley2019$17,000,000$12,500,00036.0%
LTLaremy Tunsil2020$22,000,000$16,500,00033.3%
GKelechi Osemele2016$11,700,000$9,500,00023.2%
EdgeKhalil Mack2018$23,500,000$19,083,33323.1%
IDLAaron Donald2018$22,500,000$19,062,50018.0%
WRJulio Jones2019$22,000,000$19,250,00014.3%
QBAaron Rodgers2018$33,500,000$30,000,00011.7%
TEJimmy Graham2014$10,000,000$9,000,00011.1%
CBrandon Linder2017$10,340,600$9,400,00010.0%
CBByron Jones2020$16,500,000$15,050,0009.6%
SLandon Collins2019$14,000,000$13,000,0007.7%

The only player that Kittle will not jump over in terms of a market jump is Gurley and you could put an asterisk on that one since there was a contract that was no longer active (Adrian Peterson) but modern enough to at least have be a consideration when the deal was signed. The last market mover at tight end jumped the market by 11%.

Kittle’s reported guarantee of $30 million at signing is $10 million more than any tight end currently in the NFL and his $40M injury guarantee is $15.5 million more than the largest historical guarantee ever given to a tight end (Charles Clay received $24.5M fully guaranteed from the Bills in 2015).

When compared to wide receivers Kittle’s $15 million average ranks 12th, just below Jarvis Landry’s $15.1 million per year contract with the Browns. The $40 million guarantee ranks 10th just below Stefon Diggs original contract signed with the Vikings while his full guarantee ranks 8th among receivers. This is a big leap forward for tight ends who even at their peak with the Graham contract were generally lumped with slot receivers.

From a historical standpoint the contract will bump Kittle just above Graham’s 2014 contract with the Saints when adjusted for salary cap inflation with a guarantee that is $5 million above any inflated guarantee level for a tight end.

While we dont know the full numbers yet( and the devil is always in the details) there is no way to say that this is anything but a great deal for Kittle. I would also say that this contract puts the John Lynch final stamp on the 49ers organization if it wasnt there already. There has been much more of a push with Lynch as GM to spend on certain players than there was in the past and this was no exception. From Jimmy Garoppolo to Jerick McKinnon to Kwon Alexander and Arik Armstead the 49ers are doing more in the last few years than they have in the past.

Ill be interested to see the structure on the deal. San Francisco does use large per game bonuses in their contracts as a protection and I would think they still have those here. They also use April 1 vesting dates though the guarantee is so strong that I would think this is of lesser concern. Given the uncertainty of 2021’s salary cap I would also wonder if they went to the option and void structure for next seasons payout. When we get a look at the full numbers we will update the cap figures accordingly.

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