© Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
When Kyle Juszczyk hit free agency, it was well-assumed that he’d become the highest-paid fullback in the NFL. The estimates, though, weren’t particularly close.
Perhaps four years, $14 million? Not quite.
Even Juszczyk was probably surprised to see the $21 million figure over four years, nearly all of which he’ll actually be paid. It was the highest sum for a fullback in NFL history. Now 29 years old, Juszczyk is primed to pull in his second sizable contract of his career. The final year of that four-year contract with San Francisco will expire at the conclusion of the 2020 season, when he’s slated to make $6.70 million, per OverTheCap.
The next-highest-paid fullback? Derek Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’ll make $2.08 million next season. Sufficed to say, Juszczyk is in another class of fullbacks because he’s position-fluid and has the qualities that head coach Kyle Shanahan loves most: athleticism and speed, fantastic blocking form, positional fluidity, and an outstanding health record. He’s also a massive bonus in the locker room as an affable, veteran player who is exceedingly unlikely to have issues off the field.
That explains why Juszczyk, who spoke on a conference call on Tuesday, did not seem to be weighed down by the prospect of an expiring contract. The 49ers shot other offers out of the water when he was first available, and he’s made that once-lambasted deal appear as proper value, even for the dinosaur position Juszczyk plays, at least on paper.
“It is one of those things where I focus on what I can control, and that really is what I do on the field and how I’m able to help this team, so as long as I can continue to do that and help this team win, I know that those things will take care of themselves,” Juszczyk said. “I know that Kyle and John [Lynch] have looked at me favorably and I think that they’ll take care of me.”
One of the ways the team has compensated for his salary is by hitting on undrafted, borderline free players like Matt Breida and Jeff Wilson Jr. JaMycal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed are two candidates to follow that path this season. The 49ers did, however, draft Georgia tight end/fullback/H-back Charlie Woerner this season, an athletic blocking type who could project as his future replacement.
The team’s cap space situation is far tighter than it was in 2017, when the 49ers were able to spend somewhat lavishly, so the prospect of re-signing Juszczyk isn’t as straightforward now as it was back then. But if the jack-of-all-trades option remains healthy and proves, yet again, that he’s indispensable to a run-first offense which prioritizes positional flexibility, it would seem more likely than not that he returns to Santa Clara (if the numbers are right for both parties). It’s worth remembering this is a player who was a yard away from having two touchdowns, and being a strong candidate for Super Bowl MVP at the end of the third quarter in February.