49ers' George Kittle: 'Fun' to See Travis Kelce, Tight Ends Get Big Contracts

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 16, 2020

San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) is seen against the Kansas City Chiefs at Super Bowl 54 on Feb. 2, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. The Chiefs won the game 31-20. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

One of the latest NFL trends comes down to finding a dynamic tight end, signing them for as much money as possible and enjoying the results.

Step one of that process is proving incredibly tough, making step two even more important.

George Kittle, Travis Kelce, Austin Hooper and Blake Jarwin have already signed for a combined $196.25 million since February with Kittle's five-year, $75 million deal setting a tight end record.

As more money gets poured into his position, Kittle is thrilled to see his counterparts start cashing bigger checks.

"I think overall tight ends are occasionally forgot about or not advertised enough," Kittle told reporters Saturday. "And I think the fact that guys are exploding through the ceiling that was set with me, Travis Kelce got a fantastic new deal, I know [Zach] Ertz is about to get one and the guys that are just blowing through that, it's fun to see and I think tight ends will just continue to prove that we're worth a lot to the team."

Kelce recently signed for four years, $57.25 million to remain in Kansas City, and Ertz, who becomes a free agent in 2022, could be next.

Tight ends developing into coveted assets is nothing new in the NFL. The money they're starting to receive is.

Kelce and Kittle are each slated to earn an average annual value of more than $14.3 million per year.

According to Over the Cap, Rob Gronkowski never earned more than a base salary of $9 million per year, Tony Gonzalez topped out at $4.5 million and Jason Witten's highest base salary was $7.4 million.

That San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, a former safety, helped lead the contract talks seemingly factored into the drastic pay shift:

"I think I had an interesting perspective personally because I played a position that had lagged behind in terms of getting paid and I felt like the position and the nature of the position had changed. At one point, I became the high-water mark at safety for about 24 hours before Brian Dawkins did. You also kind of feel a responsibility to the game to the other players at your position, and so I knew we were dealing with some interesting dynamics there.

"It wasn't an easy negotiation, but everybody stayed positive and resolute through the whole thing that we were going to find a way to get it done."

Kittle is just glad the deal is taken care of. Now one of the highest-paid players in the league after tallying 1,053 yards and five touchdowns last year, he's ready to focus on improving his already-stellar numbers.

"I get paid to play football, and now I'm taken care of and my family is taken care of and now I can just focus on that," Kittle said. "I don't have to worry about money, I don't have to worry about anything else. I can just go out there and play football and run through someone's face and I'm really excited about that."