49ers Urged to Prepare for Future Beyond George Kittle

49ers contemplate future as key player's career progresses

by Nouman Rasool
49ers Urged to Prepare for Future Beyond George Kittle
© Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In the heart of the San Francisco 49ers' strategy lies a crucial decision point: the future without George Kittle. Kittle's fervent dedication to the game and his role as a tight end has solidified him as a linchpin in the team's offensive lineup.

Despite participating in all 16 games last season, Kittle's career has been marred by injuries, a direct consequence of his tenacious playing style and commitment to the team's running game through his robust blocking. As Kittle advances into his eighth season, having celebrated his 30th birthday last October, the 49ers are at a crossroads.

The team has historically aimed to bolster the tight end position to reduce Kittle's workload. However, attempts have fallen short. In the 2023 season, Kittle was on the field for 895 offensive snaps, significantly outpacing his nearest teammate in the tight end position, Charlie Woerner, who logged 312 snaps before moving to the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent.

Planning Beyond Kittle

The need for strategic planning for a post-Kittle era was echoed by Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area on the "49ers Talk" podcast, highlighting Kittle's age as a factor that the team must consider.

Despite Kittle's seemingly recent emergence in the NFL, his 30 years signal a time for forward-thinking strategies. Efforts to fortify the tight end lineup were evident in the 49ers' bid for Detroit Lions' Brock Wright with a three-year, $12 million deal, an attempt thwarted as the Lions matched the offer, retaining Wright.

This move underscored the 49ers' intent to strengthen the position. Last year's draft saw San Francisco pick Cameron Latu and Brayden Willis, though their contributions were minimal due to Latu's season on injured reserve and Willis's limited playtime.

The 49ers' pursuit of Wright, as analyzed by Matt Barrows of The Athletic, suggests a hesitance towards relying on second-year players for major contributions in 2024, indicating the team's continued search for a robust tight end.

Facing challenges in free agency, the 49ers are poised to explore the draft for potential talent. The team has shown interest in a diverse group of tight ends, including Erick All of Iowa, Ja'Tavion Sanders of Texas, and others, demonstrating a proactive approach to scouting future stars.

For detailed insights into the 49ers' draft strategy and potential picks, our pre-draft tracker offers an exhaustive list of formal and informal meetings with promising NFL rookies, indicating a comprehensive plan to secure the team's future.