49ers reach agreement with Kyle Juszczyk on a 5-year deal
The 49ers are bringing back one of their “big three” free agents after agreeing to a five-year deal with fullback Kyle Juszczyk worth a reported $27 million. The NFL Network was the first to report the agreement. His agency confirmed the deal that will make him the NFL’s highest-paid fullback.
How he fits
The 49ers made a flurry of free-agent signings when Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch took over in 2017, and none was criticized more heavily than Juszczyk’s, who became — by far — the highest-paid player at a position that is rapidly vanishing from the NFL. Four years later, however, few question the deal. Juszczyk has epitomized Shanahan’s offense, which can run or pass equally well from the same formations and the same personnel groups. The 49ers simply run the ball better when Juszczyk is on the field and he’s a good option in the passing game as well. He had four receiving touchdowns in 2020 to go along with two on the ground. The difference this go-around is that he’ll enter the season at age 30 instead of 26.
There will be some major changes on the 49ers for sure this offseason, but the ground game ought to remain largely intact. Raheem Mostert is back for at least one more season, and Juszczyk will be the lead blocker for him, Jeff Wilson and whoever lands the No. 3 role. (As of now, second-year player JaMycal Hasty is the front-runner for that spot). In addition, Mike McDaniel — now with the title of offensive coordinator — will continue to craft the team’s running game plans. McDaniel and Juszczyk have a strong bond, and McDaniel’s presence likely was a major factor in the fullback’s return.
There’s probably very little draft impact. It’s possible that if Juszczyk had signed elsewhere, the 49ers would have used a late-round pick on a fullback. Or perhaps they would have doubled their search for a No. 2 tight end and gone with more two-tight-ends looks in 2021. As it stands, neither is a top priority.
Juszczyk’s first deal with the 49ers, signed in 2017, averaged $5.3 million over four years. This pact is worth up to $5.4 million per year, but the 49ers were able to stretch the cap hits out over five years instead of four. The signing bonus is smaller this time around — $4 instead of $5 million — and guaranteed base salaries are spread out over the deal’s first three years instead of the initial two, as was the case last time.
Juszczyk will earn the NFL veteran’s minimum of $1.075 million as his base salary in 2021, a key mechanism to help the 49ers navigate this year’s cap crunch. That plus $800,000 of prorated signing bonus money adds up to about $1.9 million. Juszczyk will again earn $400,000 of per-game roster bonus money (he has no workout bonus this year), so his 2021 cap hit is $2.275 million.
That’s a very affordable number, especially considering the fact that Juszczyk’s cap hits ranged from $3.8 to $6.7 million on his previous contract. If Juszczyk remains effective and the cap rebounds over the coming years — developments that both parties expect to happen — he’ll stand to earn nearly $6 million in base salary and option bonuses over $2 million for the later years of his contract. Here are the cap hits for the duration of the contract:
2021: $2.3 million
2022: $3 million
2023: $6.6 million
2024: $7.6 million
2025: $7.6 million
But the 49ers have saved money now, when cap space is most scarce.
Juszczyk is popular in the locker room and among the coaching staff, and his return undoubtedly will be a confidence boost to a team that had grown wobbly by season’s end. A competent fullback and a strong running game also are a quarterback’s best friend. In that way, it’s hard to imagine anyone is happier with the news of Juszczyk’s signing than Jimmy Garoppolo.
(Photo: Kyle Terada / USA Today)