"He's going to break the bank, and rightfully so. He's someone you don't have to worry about because he has a work ethic. He's not just trying to be famous, he's trying to be great. That's a big thing. Too many of these cats try to be famous instead of being great, not realizing that if you're great, you will be famous. George Kittle could have dominated in any generation or era. That's quite a rare find."
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported on July 29 that negotiations were underway between Kittle and the 49ers front office but that the two sides were not close. There's still plenty of time to get a contract extension done, as Kittle is signed with San Francisco through the end of this season.
But the 49ers will have to pay up to retain Kittle, who has been a dominant all-around tight end over the past two seasons. He's amassed 173 catches, 2,430 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in that span, and that's despite missing two games because of injury last season.
His blocking skills have also helped him earn Pro Football Focus' highest-ever grade given to a tight end over a single season (95.0 in 2019).
Sam Monson of PFF wrote the following in January:
"Again, what makes Kittle so special is that he can be deployed to handle players who typically need offensive line attention, such as defensive ends who outweigh him significantly. Bizarrely, Kittle was actually labeled as not a strong run blocker by some in the media this year, but it's actually one of many strengths to his game. Kittle, in fact, blocks with the better blocking tight ends in the league—including those who are blocking specialists. His run-blocking grade is the fourth-best among all tight ends this season, and his highlight reel might be by far the best given the players he has been tasked with blocking."
Kittle, whom the 49ers picked in the fifth round of the 2017 draft, played college ball at Iowa.
Kittle has been one of the better late-round draft steals in recent memory and helped lead the 49ers to a 13-3 regular-season record and NFC title last season. He paced the offense in receptions and receiving yards.
Kittle, who turns 27 in October, is clearly deserving of a contract that should reset the tight end market. At this point, it's a question of when and not if that deal comes to fruition.
A few tight ends have landed fat contracts this offseason. Of note, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Darren Waller to a three-year deal worth $27 million, per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. The Cleveland Browns also signed ex-Atlanta Falcon Austin Hooper to a four-year, $42 million deal, per Over The Cap.
Kittle's deal should easily surpass both of those and lead a tight end ledger in total value currently paced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Rob Gronkowski, who inked a six-year, $54 million extension with the New England Patriots in 2012.
Kittle and the 49ers are slated to begin their NFC title defense against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Sept. 13.