George Kittle's Extension Concludes a Flawless Off Season for the 49ers Front Office
What an off season it has been for the 49ers. Reflecting on the time between March until today, it has been a roller coaster experience with no shortage of drama and excitement. The roller coaster has finally come to an end now that George Kittle has signed his 5-year, $75 million contract extension.
The front office deserves an A-plus grade for what they accomplished the past six months. Let’s revisit the decisions and moves that were made to make this such a tremendous off season.
Taking care of their own free agents
Entering the off season, a handful of starters and key players were set to hit the free-agent market. With the exception of Emmanuel Sanders, the team took care of the vast majority of their guys. Arik Armstead, who broke out in 2019, signed a big contract. Jimmie Ward, who also broke in 2019, signed a lucrative deal.
Key role and depth players such as Ben Garland and Ronald Blair were brought back on one-year deals. Restricted free agents Kendrick Bourne and Matt Breida signed their tenders, though Breida was later traded.
Here’s a recap of what happened with each of the 49ers’ free agents:
- Arik Armstead (5 years, $85M, $50M guaranteed)
- Jimmie Ward (3 years, $28.5M, $16.5M guaranteed)
- Kendrick Bourne (1 year, $3.26M, no guarantees)
- *Matt Breida (1-year, $3,26M, no guarantees)
- Ronald Blair (1-year, $2.3M fully guaranteed)
- Jason Verrett (1-year, $1.05M, $137,000 guaranteed)
- *Shon Coleman (1-year, $962,500, $137,000 guaranteed)
- Dontae Johnson (1-year, $910,000, no guarantees)
- Ben Garland (1-year, $805,000, $520,000 guaranteed)
* Player was traded our opted out of season*
- Emmanuel Sanders (Saints)
- Sheldon Day (Colts)
- Levine Toilolo (Giants)
- Anthony Ziettel (Vikings)
- Elijah Lee (Lions)
Making cost efficient moves
Without a doubt, DeForest Buckner is a better defensive lineman than Arik Armstead. But Armstead is the one the team elected to pay. When the team knew they couldn’t meet Buckner’s contract demands, they got tremendous value for him with the 13th pick.
The money wasn’t saved by re-signing Armstead and trading Buckner. The money was saved by drafting Javon Kinlaw as Buckner’s replacement.
- Buckner’s cap hit by season:
- 2020: $23.4M
- 2021: $17M
- 2022: $16M
- 2023: $19.75M
- 2024: $20.25M
- Armstead’s cap hit by season:
- 2020: 6M
- 2021: 12.5M
- 2022: $20M
- 2023: $21.75M
- 2024: $23.25
- Kinlaw’s cap hit by season:
- 2020: $2.8M
- 2021: $3.5M
- 2022: $4.25M
- 2023: $4.9M
The same could be said for when Emmanuel Sanders priced himself out of the team’s budget, and they drafted Brandon Aiyuk as his replacement.
- Sanders’ cap hit by season:
- 2020: $4M
- 2021: $10M
- 2022: $10M
- Aiyuk’s cap hit by season:
- 2020: $2.275M
- 2021: $2.85M
- 2022: $3.4M
- 2023: $3.9M
By losing two starters in Sanders and Buckner and immediately drafting their replacements, the team saved tons of money and filled the biggest voids on the roster quickly.
Making a Super Bowl caliber trade
Joe Staley, one of the best offensive lineman in the history of the franchise, retired. To counter losing their left tackle, John Lynch traded for Trent Williams who, when healthy, is one of the best at the position.
To go out and get a player of Williams’ caliber is a Super-Bowl worthy move. Replacing a great player with an even better player is an aggressive move that shows how serious the team is about winning now. Not to mention, they snagged Williams for a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick. Tremendous work by Lynch.
Addressing the lack of defensive line depth
Without Dee Ford last season, the 49ers were a completely different defense.
Splits with / without Ford:
- Opponents Points Per Game: 16.6 (with) / 25.8 (without)
- Opponents Passing Yards Per Game: 163 (with) / 214 (without)
- Team Sacks Per Game: 3.9 (with) / 1.5 (without)
The 49ers signed Kerry Hyder earlier this offseason, and more recently signed Dion Jordan. Jordan is intriguing because he brings that element of speed the pass rush doesn't possess outside of Ford.
Jordan stands 6'6" and runs a 4.54 40-yard dash. As the third pick in the 2013 draft, there is no denying he has been a bust thus far in his career, but there's also no denying he's an athletic freak. Jordan has never been around the kind of pass rush talent the 49ers have, which could open the door for him to have a very strong season.
There was a need for speed behind Ford, and that was accomplished by signing Jordan.
Simply doing the right thing
Raheem Mostert was not happy with his contract and requested a trade. This is something no one really saw coming, and the situation certainly had the potential to go south for Mostert. Instead of forcing his hand and making him honor the contract he signed just a year ago, the team worked with his agent and gave Mostert a new deal -- something Mostert certainly deserved. Even though Mostert didn’t go about his displeasure in the most ideal way, the front office certainly handled the debacle well.
George Kittle will be a 49er for a long, long time
With Kittle entering his contract year, there was never any doubt that his potential extension would be a hot discussion. The suspense built up all the way until the start of training camp, and now the 49ers have arguably the third-best receiving threat in the history of the franchise locked up for the next five years.
This offseason has been quite the show for the 49ers, so it is very fitting that they saved the best for last.
Both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch received contract extensions, which I for one did not see coming. Especially considering they just reached the halfway point of their initial deals. Extending both Shanahan and Lynch is a huge testament to what they’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time, and shows the great confidence Jed York has in their leadership.
The front office had a phenomenal off season, but trophies aren’t handed out for that. There is a lot of work to be done, and the 49ers are in great shape to take it one step further than last year and win the Super Bowl.
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