NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco provided more specifics:
At $15 million, Kittle's average salary smashes the previous high-water mark for tight ends. Hunter Henry was in the top spot after he signed his $10.6 million franchise tender with the Los Angeles Chargers, while Austin Hooper's contract with the Cleveland Browns will net him $10.5 million annually, per Spotrac.
Highest-Paid Tight Ends
- 1. George Kittle ($15,000,000)
- 2. Hunter Henry ($10,607,000)
- 3. Austin Hooper ($10,500,000)
- 4. Travis Kelce ($9,368,400)
- T5. Rob Gronkowski ($9,000,000)
- T5. Kyle Rudolph ($9,000,000)
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero noted Kittle might not have the top salary for long, though:
Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero
Austin Hooper's four-year, $52.5 million deal with the #Browns in March reset the bar for tight ends in all key metrics. Now, as expected, George Kittle's five-year, $75 million extension soars past Hooper, paying him more like a receiver. Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz, you're up.
Kittle was bound to get a hefty pay raise after he posted 216 receptions for 2,945 yards and 12 touchdowns through his first three seasons. He was a Pro Bowler in 2018 and 2019 and earned his first All-Pro nod last year.
His contract reflects how tight ends still have some way to go to be compensated like elite wide receivers. Julio Jones ($22 million) leads all wideouts in average salary, and Kittle's number would only be good enough for 12th behind Cleveland Browns star Jarvis Landry ($15.1 million).
Highest-Paid Wide Receivers
- 1. Julio Jones ($22,000,000)
- 2. Amari Cooper ($20,000,000)
- 3. Michael Thomas ($19,250,000)
- 4. A.J. Green ($18,171,000)
- T5. Tyreek Hill ($18,000,000)
- T5. Odell Beckham Jr. ($18,000,000)
- 7. Mike Evans ($16,500,000)
- T8. DeAndre Hopkins ($16,200,000)
- T8. Brandin Cooks ($16,200,000)
- 10. Adam Thielen ($16,050,000)
- 11. Jarvis Landry ($15,100,000)
- *George Kittle ($15,000,000)
Here's where Kittle sits relative to the highest earners at each position.
Highest Average Salary
- QB: Patrick Mahomes ($45,000,000)
- RB: Christian McCaffrey ($16,015,875)
- WR: Julio Jones ($22,000,000)
- TE: George Kittle ($15,000,000)
- OT: Laremy Tunsil ($22,000,000)
- OG: Brandon Scherff ($15,030,000)
- C: Rodney Hudson ($11,250,000)
- DE: Joey Bosa ($27,000,000)
- DT: Aaron Donald ($22,500,000)
- OLB: Khalil Mack ($23,500,000)
- ILB: Bobby Wagner ($18,000,000)
- CB: Darius Slay $16,683,333)
- S: Eddie Jackson ($14,600,000)
Both Kelce and Ertz are signed through 2021, so massive extensions may not be coming this offseason.
Ertz might struggle to eclipse Kittle's record-breaking deal since he's three years older at 29 and has had just one 1,000-yard receiving season.
Kelce, on the other hand, should have a good chance. Although he's four years older than Kittle, his 507 receptions are the third-most ever for a tight end over his first seven seasons, per Pro Football Reference. He's also first in receiving yards (6,465) despite the fact that he played in only one game as a rookie.