The Sacramento Bee
Kyle Juszczyk signed the richest contract for a fullback in NFL history in 2017.
He’ll be doing it again this week.
According to an NFL Network report, the 49ers and Juszczyk on Sunday agreed to a five-year contract worth up to $27 million, with $10 million guaranteed. It comes on the eve of the NFL’s legal tampering period and ahead of the new league year starting Wednesday.
General manager John Lynch caused a stir Saturday night with a Tweet indicating the team was close to bringing back Juszczyk.
“I’m thirsty. Niners fans, you want some ‘Juice?’ ” Lynch’s tweet read.
Juszczyk, who turns 30 next month, has gone to the last five Pro Bowls and has been one of the team’s most successful additions in free agency in recent years. His landmark four-year, $21 million deal with San Francisco in 2017 was a record for his position. He’ll be 35 during the final season of the agreement in 2025.
Juszczyk’s value to coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense shows up in the numbers. According to ESPN, the 49ers over the last four seasons have ranked second in the NFL by averaging 5.99 yards per play with two running backs on the field. They rank 20th (5.45) with just one back on the field. Juszczyk has missed just six games since 2017, including four in 2019 with a knee injury, and was one of the team’s few players to appear in all 16 games in 2020.
The 49ers before signing Juszczyk were expected to have roughly $32 million in cap space, in the top third of the NFL, after it was announced last week the 2021 salary cap was set at $182.5 million, down from the $210 million to $220 million projection for 2021 before the pandemic. The salary cap is expected to return to normal levels in 2022 if, and when, fans are allowed back in stadiums and the pending media rights contracts with television networks that could be finalized soon.
Juszczyk was emotional at the thought of leaving the 49ers when he last spoke to local reporters Jan. 4 after the team’s disappointing 6-10 season ended.
“To be totally honest with you, it’s kind of a sense of unsure,” he said. “Just not totally sure what’s ahead for me. I don’t want it to be a sense of finality. Honestly, it’s just been a lot of emotions the past weeks. Even you just asking that has already got me choked up.”
Juszczyk is one of many players that has enjoyed the locker room culture Shanahan and Lynch have instilled since taking over — and hinted the team was trying to keep the core together despite the team having some 30 players slated for unrestricted free agency.
“We have said it for four years now,” Juszczyk said. “This is such a special group that we have here and it’s been so awesome to cultivate that culture together and be there as being part of the first free agency class that was brought in here along with all the rookies that were drafted that year, it’s just been so great to experience everything that we have with each other for the past four years.
“Kyle (Shanahan) just made it very clear in his team meeting that they’re going to do everything they can to keep that core group together. It is the NFL, there’s always going to be little changes here and there, you’re never going to have the same exact group but he’s made it clear he’s going to try to keep us all together so yeah, there is a little bit more emotion just because we know there will be guys that won’t be here.”
The most important domino for San Francisco this offseason is free agent left tackle Trent Williams, who could get a contract worth upwards of $20 million per season. The 49ers have been pushing for Williams to return, but the eight-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman has said he wants to see what his value could be on the open market, which means a deal with San Francisco likely wouldn’t come until he fielded offers from other teams.
Williams and the 49ers agreed to clause in his contract last offseason that prevented the team from using the franchise tag to allow Williams to hit the open market.