Will the 49ers do George Kittle the way they did DeForest Buckner?

Grant Cohn

Most of us sincerely expect the 49ers and George Kittle to agree to a long-term extension within the next eight months.

But at this time last year, most of us also sincerely expected the 49ers and DeForest Buckner to agree to an extension eventually. And they didn’t. Not even close.

Let me remind you what went down between Buckner and the 49ers. Ask yourself if Buckner’s story sounds similar to Kittle’s.

Buckner’s agent and the 49ers met after the 2018 season to discuss an extension. Buckner had just finished his third season in the NFL, and wanted more than $20 million per season. The 49ers apparently offered him significantly less -- probably $18 million or $19 million per season.

Neither side compromised. Buckner played out the fourth year of his rookie contract, which paid him $2.9 million in 2019.

After 2019, the 49ers could’ve kept Buckner by picking up the fifth-year option in his rookie contract, which would have paid him $12.9 million in 2020 -- a steal for Buckner. Then in 2021, the 49ers could have franchise tagged Buckner and paid him roughly $16 million -- still a bargain. Then, in 2022, when the NFL salary cap is expected to rise dramatically, the 49ers could have given Buckner the long-term extension he wanted, assuming he didn’t hate their guts by then.

But instead, they traded Buckner. They didn’t hold him hostage.

Doesn’t Kittle’s situation sound similar?

His agent and the 49ers met in February to discuss an extension, they didn’t come close to an agreement and reportedly haven’t made progress. Kittle says he won’t hold out, because he’s a captain and wants to lead by example. He also probably wants to keep his value high, because he knows big money will come to him eventually, and holding out would lower his perceived worth.

Next year, Kittle will be an unrestricted free agent. The 49ers could franchise tag him next year, but doing so might poison their relationship with Kittle. He might refuse to sign the tag.

Isn’t it possible the 49ers might trade Kittle next offseason, like they traded Buckner this offseason? The 49ers could trade Kittle for a first-round pick, and use it on the best tight end in the draft -- Pat Freiermuth from Penn State.

Let me be clear: I do not advise the 49ers to trade Kittle. They should extend him now. He’s a future Hall of Famer. But so is Buckner, potentially.

I can’t shake this feeling of deja vu.

Comments (9)
No. 1-9
Mitchell Alan
Mitchell Alan

DeFo and George-- it is a bit deja vu.

But you can't say in one argument that the Niners could have Franchised-tagged DeFo, and almost in the next breath say Franchise-tagging Kittle would "poison the relationship" between the team and Kittle.

Montana1680
Montana1680

No they won’t! You don’t trade away the best at their position. Getting lucky and finding another Kittle in the 5th round or even the 1st, who forces Ds to account for him, is probably not going to happen. Buckner rarely took over a game, Kittle can. Kittle is worth more than everyone on the offense due to his tenacity, blocking prowess, YAC, & his clutch gene which allows him to come through in critical moments. They will not trade away the centerpiece that fuels the offense! No one else on this team comes up more often in big moments. Lynch and Shanahan aren’t stupid. They’ll find a way to keep him. He’s too important and too loved!

Aje806tx49
Aje806tx49

I’m predicting 13 million a year for Kittle which makes him the highest paid TE by far. As much as Grant is labeling him as a WR he’s officially a TE and should get paid as such.

Aje806tx49
Aje806tx49

Buckner wanted Mack and Donald money and even tho he is very good he’s not in there category Kittle is literally the best TE in the NFL big difference Kittle ain’t going anywhere

Aje806tx49
Aje806tx49

J

Aje806tx49
Aje806tx49

O

MooseGB
MooseGB

I have enjoyed your take on the 49ers for many years.
However why should the 49ers need or heed your advice in particular?

Stanley49
Stanley49

I fully believe the Kittle situation will be fine. That being said, if I have to choose between Bosa, Warner, and a Jimmy extension, let alone all the other contracts that are up next year, and Kittle....I’m not choosing Kittle

Sscl
Sscl

Belechek did it, why not? You can pay only so much. You have to pay trent next year, what about kinlaw and bosa, plus they need cbs. People wont like it, but they will like it less if the 49ers dont keep fielding a playoff caliber Team.


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