In just three years in the league, George Kittle has announced himself, on the field and to NFL Films cameras, as arguably the best tight end in the league.
Still on his rookie deal, the San Francisco 49ers TE has yet to be paid like it though. Entering the final season of that four-year contract and set to make around $2.13 million in 2020, 35th at the position behind MyCole Pruitt and Marcedes Lewis, Kittle is expected to be extended in short order.
But Kittle and his representation have no desire to be compensated just like any other free-agent tight end would.
Kittle's agent, Jack Bechta, told NFL Network's Mike Silver that he doesn't "care about the tight end market. I'm being paid to do a George Kittle deal." Unsurprisingly, given Kittle's demands, Silver reported Friday that there has been no movement on extension talks since preliminary discussions in February and the two sides are "not close at all."
Not unlike Patrick Mahomes' situation in Kansas City, Kittle's contract talks will likely result in him being the highest-paid player at his position, shattering the current paradigm.
The highest-paid TE in the league in average annual value is Hunter Henry, who signed a $10.61 million franchise tag with the Chargers this offseason. Cleveland's Austin Hooper is the highest-paid TE on a long-term deal, averaging $10.5 million over four seasons with the Browns.
Comments like those from Bechta imply that Kittle is asking for far more than $10.6 million on average and could be requesting compensation in line with a star wide receiver's.
It's hard to argue Kittle's unworthy of such a massive deal. A 2017 fifth-round pick, the TE has been named to two Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro in 2019, leading the Niners to an NFC title. One of the best blocking TEs in the league, Kittle has totaled 216 receptions, 2,945 yards and 12 scores in 45 games played. Since entering the league, only Travis Kelce, his TE counterpart in Super Bowl LIV, has picked up more receiving yards at the position.
But with the football world as it is, slowly returning to normalcy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, extending Kittle does not appear to be top among San Francisco's priorities at the moment.
John Lynch's 49ers have not been shy about doling out big contracts in recent years (Jimmy Garoppolo, Arik Armstead, Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander say hello). Whether Lynch will sign Kittle to one before the start of the 2020 season remains to be seen, but requires at least a conversation between the two sides.