10. Kyle Juszczyk, fullback/tight end, San Francisco 49ers
When San Francisco handed a fullback $21 million over four seasons on the first day of free agency, it was met with widespread criticism and shock. After all, Juszczyk’s annual salary doubles that of the second highest-paid fullback in the NFL.
As with everything in free agency, instant reaction was more surfaced based than anything. First off, Juszczyk is considered the best blocking fullback in the NFL. It’s what helped him earn a Pro Bowl spot for the Baltimore Ravens last season.
Secondly, he fits exactly what new 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan looks for in this position.
Lastly, the 49ers plan on using the former fourth-round pick more as an offensive weapon than a true fullback. That should go over well considering the Harvard grad recorded a combined 78 receptions in his final two seasons with Baltimore.
Now add in the fact that Juszczyk turned down larger offers from other teams, and this doesn’t seem to be too much of a reach here in terms of salary.
From an on-field standpoint, what Juszczyk will bring to the table for San Francisco is undeniable. When lined up at fullback, he will surely provide the necessary blocking to help talented youngster Carlos Hyde with holes on the ground.
The more interesting dynamic here is that Juszczyk will also be split off tackle as a tight end and in the slot. It’s a scheme offenses rarely use in the NFL today. It was also the MO of great 49ers offenses of the past under Bill Walsh. Remember, fullback Tom Rathman put up 73 receptions during San Francisco’s 1989 Super Bowl winning campaign.
With Shanahan running a variation of that well-known west coast offense, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Juszczyk match that number in 2017. That’s the value in adding a tool like this on offense.