NFL Network's Michael Silver said Friday that the Niners want to "reset the tight end market" and give Kittle a huge tight end deal, but Kittle views himself as more than just a tight end:
Kittle is set to make just $2.133 million in 2020—the final year of his rookie contract—despite being one of the NFL's most productive tight ends along with Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs and Zach Ertz of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The 26-year-old Kittle has been named a Pro Bowler in each of the past two seasons, and he was selected to the All-Pro First Team for the first time last season as well.
In 2018, Kittle made 88 receptions and scored five touchdowns, and he also set a single-season NFL record for receiving yardage by a tight end with 1,377 yards.
Despite missing two games because of injury last season, Kittle was nearly as good with 85 grabs for 1,053 yards and five scores.
For as excellent as Kittle has been in terms of pass-catching, his blocking is arguably what sets him apart from all other NFL tight ends. During the 2019 season especially, Kittle seemingly made the highlight reel for his blocks as much as his receptions.
The Niners were second in the NFL last season with 144.1 rushing yards per game, and they reached Super Bowl LIV largely on the strength of their running game as well with 204 rushing yards per game.
Kittle's blocking played a significant role in the success of the San Francisco running game, and it is likely the primary reason why he wants to be paid even more handsomely than the top-paid tight end in the NFL would be traditionally.
Silver noted that with NFL players having the choice to opt out of the 2020 NFL season amid the coronavirus pandemic, Kittle could potentially use that leverage to his advantage in terms of pushing the Niners to sign him to a new deal, although there has been no sign of him considering an opt out.
If the 49ers were to lose Kittle for the 2020 season, they would be without by far their top offensive weapon and it would undoubtedly have a negative impact on the continued development of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.