After spending the first four years of his career with the Baltimore Ravens, fullback Kyle Juszczyk has reportedly agreed to a deal with the San Francisco 49ers. ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported Juszczyk planned to sign with the 49ers.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the contract is expected to be a four-year, $21 million deal. B/R's Matt Miller reported the deal is expected to make Juszczyk the NFL's highest-paid fullback.
Juszczyk is a rarity in today's NFL. He's a true fullback who is capable of catching passes out of the backfield but whose main job is to provide an additional blocker for the running back to pick up big yardage.
Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus named Juszczyk to the site's 2016 All-Pro team as the NFL's best fullback with an overall grade of 87.9.
"The Ravens use a fullback more than most teams in the league, and it’s because Juszczyk has been excellent in all facets of the game," Monson wrote. "He has good grades as a lead blocker, pass protector, ball carrier, and even made plays as a receiver for Baltimore this year."
Dom Cosentino wrote for Vice Sports last October about why fullbacks have been devalued in this era of the NFL:
The modern NFL offense, however, places less of a priority on blocking from the backfield in and of itself. Recent trends have increased the value of players with more versatility on the field, players with the speed to play in the slot or even out wide, but who also can stay in to pass protect when a given situation might warrant it.
Because of that limited market, Juszczyk was in an interesting spot as a free agent for the first time. He even admitted as much after last season ended.
“My rookie contract is up, so I don’t know exactly what’s in store with me in the future, but I’m excited,” Juszczyk told Garrett Downing of Ravens.com. “I know things will work out – whether it’s here or somewhere else – I know something will work out for me.”
Things did work out for Juszczyk, who found a team that will make use of his skills as a blocker and receiver out of the backfield. He's a throwback player in a league constantly finding ways to move faster into the future.
The 49ers are a team badly in need of playmakers to boost an offense that gained the second-fewest yards and scored the sixth-fewest points last season. Juszczyk is the kind of all-around talent head coach Kyle Shanahan will find ways to take advantage of in his open offensive scheme.
Juszczyk is not the kind of player whose importance will show up on the stat sheet, but his ability to set the tone out of the backfield for his running back to get the glory and rack up yards in the passing game make him an underrated asset who will fit nicely in San Francisco.