San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle will set the market for tight ends. Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers struck gold in the 2017 NFL Draft when they landed George Kittle with their fifth-round pick. After three incredible seasons, San Francisco plans to reward Kittle by making him the highest-paid tight end in NFL history.

Kittle, the No. 146 pick in 2017, has quickly emerged as the best all-around tight end in the NFL and an integral part of Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Realizing the value he brings to the team, NBC Sports’ Scott Bair writes that the 49ers will make sure Kittle stays with the team for years to come.

Kittle will set the market for tight ends

The market for tight ends has been slow to climb in recent years, even with the NFL’s salary cap skyrocketing each season. Currently, Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry leads the pack with his $10.7 million salary under the franchise tag.

Henry and Austin Hooper are the only players at the position averaging $10 million per season. They’ll only hold their spots for a short while longer though, with Kittle’s contract reportedly set to blow the lid off the market.

Kittle’s contract is expected to start in the $12 million range and could reach up to $15 million annually under current projections. While he doesn’t post Travis Kelce’s touchdown numbers, the 26-year-old is coming off consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and is a mauler in the run game.

The 49ers know that he is an essential long-term piece for their offense, especially if they want to avenge their Super Bowl LIV loss.

As NBC Sports notes, San Francisco will need to be savvy with how it structures its contracts. The team will see Trent Williams, Richard Sherman and Kyle Juszczyk all hit the open market next offseason. If this organization wants to keep its Super Bowl window open, it will be crucial to keep this loaded group together.

This article first appeared on Sportsnaut and was syndicated with permission.


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SCORE:
0/49
TIME:
6:00
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Jerry Rice
XXII / 193 / WAS
Ricky Sanders
XXXIV / 162 / STL
Isaac Bruce
X / 161 / PIT
Lynn Swann
LII / 152 / NE
Danny Amendola
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XXXIII / 152 / DEN
Rod Smith
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Jerry Rice
XXIV / 148 / SF
Jerry Rice
XXXVIII / 143 / NE
Deion Branch
LIII / 141 / NE
Julian Edelman
XXXVIII / 140 / CAR
Muhsin Muhammad
XLV / 140 / GB
Jordy Nelson
I / 138 / GB*
Max McGee
XXXIX / 133 / NE
Deion Branch
III / 133 / NYJ
George Sauer
XLIII / 131 / PIT
Santonio Holmes
XX / 129 / CHI
Willie Gault
LII / 128 / NE
Chris Hogan
XLIII / 127 / ARZ
Larry Fitzgerald
XXXII / 126 / GB
Antonio Freeman
XIII / 124 / PIT
Lynn Swann
XL / 123 / PIT
Hines Ward
XXXIX / 122 / PHI
Terrell Owens
XXI / 121 / DEN
Vance Johnson
XIV / 121 / PIT
John Stallworth
LIII / 120 / LAR
Brandin Cooks
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Demaryius Thomas
LII / 116 / NE*
Rob Gronkowski
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John Stallworth
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Gary Clark
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Michael Irvin
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Art Monk
IV / 111 / MIN
John Henderson
LI / 110 / NE*
James White
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Michael Crabtree
XLIX / 109 / NE
Julian Edelman
XXXIV / 109 / STL
Torry Holt
XLIX / 109 / SEA
Chris Matthews
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Roger Craig
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