No. 1: TE George Kittle
It’s impossible to have a conversation about contract extensions and the Niners without mentioning superstar and All-Pro tight end George Kittle.
His situation is different than all the other names listed here. He isn’t a player nearing the end of a previously signed second contract like Kyle Juszczyk, Jaquiski Tartt and K’Waun Williams. And he isn’t a player on a current low-cost rookie deal who will likely receive a reasonable extension like D.J. Jones.
San Francisco 49ers
To be sure, Kittle is massively outplaying his current deal, which saw the former fifth-round pick out of Iowa make just $719,574 last season and will see a jump up to just over $2 million for 2020. Kittle is just the 102nd highest-paid tight end in the NFL out of 176 total players at his position.
Soon-to-be Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper is going to sign a contract that will make him the highest-paid tight end in the game once free agency officially begins. Hooper’s contract is reportedly coming in at four years for $42 million with $23 million guaranteed.
Expect that number to only last until Kittle signs his deal, as his new contract will likely shatter Hooper’s record. And that’s mostly because of how good Kittle is, not just as a pass catcher, but also as a blocker in the run game.
This move, then, isn’t about freeing up cap space or getting better long-term value out of a player’s contract. It’s all about locking up the best tight end in the game for a long, long time, and ensuring he’s wreaking havoc on other teams and not the 49ers in the future.
Kittle has earned it. And the 49ers should get him that new contract now before he has yet another incredible season, the cap rises, and his asking price goes up even more.