49ers who became the highest-paid players at their position haven’t always flourished in Year 1
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Nick Bosa has joined the team, ensuring a season’s worth of sacks and pressures for the 49ers and their fan base.
If only it were that simple.
The easy part is getting paid. It can be difficult to live up to.
Since the arrival of coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch in 2017, the 49ers have been in the business of awarding large contracts. And, while the 49ers may not be sorry for any of the money they’ve spent, the first season with a big-money signing doesn’t always go as planned.
“Everybody’s situation is different,” said linebacker Fred Warner on Wednesday. “That’s all part of the business.” Everyone thinks it’s all about football, but when it comes down to it, the business side takes over. Now that that part of it is gone, he can go out and play freely.”
A look at the first season after signing six players to large contracts, when the 49ers made them the highest-paid players at their position:
Garoppolo, Jimmy (February 2018)
Garoppolo temporarily became the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback after agreeing to a five-year, $137.5 million contract with $74 million guaranteed. The 49ers took a huge risk by signing Garoppolo, whose resume included only two starts in New England and five in 2018, when the 49ers went 5-0 after starting the season 1-10.
George Kittle (due in August 2020)
With a five-year, $75 million contract, the 49ers’ star tight end set a new standard in terms of average salary at the position. Kittle signed the contract after a season in which he caught 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns, was named first-team All-Pro ahead of Travis Kelce, and won the Len Eshmont Award for courageous and inspirational play. Kittle suffered a hamstring strain in training camp in 2020, then an MCL sprain, and finally a foot fracture, landing him on injured reserve. Kittle had 48 receptions for 634 yards and two touchdowns.
Trent Williams (2021 March)
Williams was acquired from Washington in 2020 after Joe Staley retired, and he showed no signs of rust after a year off. He received a six-year contract worth up to $138 million, making him the highest-paid left tackle in the NFL. Williams performed at that level in 2021 and 2022, earning first-team All-Pro honors each year.
Kyle Juszczyk (2021 March)
He signed a five-year contract worth up to $27 million with $9.6 million in guarantees, making him the league’s highest-paid fullback. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the last six seasons and has contributed significantly as a blocker and receiver. The All-Pro team does not include a fullback, who is classified as a running back.
Fred Warner (July 20, 2021).
Warner, a first-team All-Pro in 2020, also received the Eshmont Award from his teammates. After leading the 49ers with 125 tackles, his new contract was worth up to $95 million, making him the highest-paid player at his position. Warner led the 49ers in tackles again after signing the contract, but struggled in the early part of the season. Warner admitted to reporters after eight games that the contract had weighed on him. He was not one of the seven linebackers named to the first- and second-team All-Pro teams. Last season, Warner was named to the All-Pro first team.
Samuel Deebo (July 2022)
Samuel had an outstanding 2021 season, catching 77 passes for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns while also rushing 49 times for 365 yards and eight scores. He was a first-team All-Pro and the Eshmont Award winner. Samuel agreed to a three-year contract worth up to $73.5 million ($58.1 million guaranteed) after removing all 49ers references from his social media accounts. Samuel caught 56 passes for 642 yards and ran 42 times for 232 yards last season. Samuel said he was “awful” last season, which is a stretch, but he did come to camp in better shape and vowing to be better this year. He was appointed team captain.