San Francisco Chronicle
Kyle Juszczyk, an economics major at Harvard, will continue to earn more than most of his Crimson classmates.
On Sunday, a day before the soft launch of free agency, the 49ers got a contract extension done with their do-it-all, Pro Bowl fullback that allows him to retain this title: the NFL’s highest-paid player at his position.
The five-year, $27 million deal with $10 million guaranteed provides Juszczyk, 29, with an average annual salary ($5.4 million) that’s slightly above his previous number of $5.25 million. Pittsburgh’s Derek Watt ($3.25 million) is the league’s second-highest-paid fullback. NFL Network first reported Juszczyk’s new deal.
“So incredibly thankful to be apart of this organization for 5 more years!” Juszczyk said, via Instagram. “Thank you Faithful for the continuous support! Looking forward to showing that the juice is always worth the squeeze.”
The 49ers’ willingness to pony up for an eight-year veteran who will turn 30 in April and plays a punishing position is reflection of his value in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Shanahan prizes versatile offensive players. And Juszczyk’s ability as a blocker and pass-catcher means that, unlike less versatile fullbacks, his presence on the field doesn’t signal whether the 49ers plan to run or throw. Juszczyk often lines up at running back, slot receiver and tight end. Last year, he took a snap at quarterback and converted a successful sneak on 3rd-and-1 in win against the Cardinals in December.
“Kyle is a unique football player whose versatility, leadership and skillset are a tremendous fit with us,” general manager John Lynch said in a statement after the 49ers announced the deal Monday. “He has been integral to the success of our offense the last four seasons and his contributions on the field are just a portion of the value he brings to our team. Kyle has helped to establish a standard for our team on the field, in the locker room and in the community.”
The 49ers were able to offer Juszczyk familiarity in an offense that showcases his skills at a position many teams either don’t utilize or don’t emphasize in the modern-day NFL. However, it wasn’t known after the season if the 49ers would offer enough money to retain him.
In fact, a day after the 2020 regular-season finale, Juszczyk became choked up when speaking with reporters about his uncertain future.
However, Juszczyk had spoken with Shanahan during the season about their mutual interest in continuing their partnership. And the NFL’s better-than-expected financial outlook this offseason helped facilitate a deal before the start of free agency. The salary cap, which could have fallen nearly $25 million to $175 million in 2021, recently was set at $182.5 million. The 49ers entered Sunday with $24.8 million in cap space, according to the NFLPA.
Juszczyk was expected to be pursued by the Jets if he reached the open market. Former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is New York’s new head coach and 49ers assistant Mike LaFleur is his offensive coordinator. In addition, Juszczyk lives in the offseason in Long Island, which is wife’s hometown.
However, it was no surprise Sunday when Juszczyk’s contract was signed.
And that was largely strongly suggested late Saturday night that an agreement in principle had been reached. Lynch, in a tweet he sent at 9:45 p.m. Saturday, wrote: “I’m thirsty. Niners fans, you want some “Juice?,” referring to Juszczyk’s nickname.
Eric Branch covers the 49ers for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Eric_Branch
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