The 49ers have signed “Swiss Army Knife” fullback Kyle Juszczyk. He entered the free agent market as arguably the best at his position after making the Pro Bowl in 2016.
The San Francisco 49ers opened free agency with a splash, signing seven players on the first day of free agency. The team hit the nail on the head with the signing of Kyle Juszczyk, 25, (pronounced “Yooz-check). He fills a position of need schematically and brings a hard nose/intimidating attitude/identity that the 49ers have been lacking and needing without question or any doubt. In fact, Niners Live a while back discussed the 49ers need to get back to their roots, “the Fullback”. Kyle, who goes by the nickname Juice, is 6’1 240lbs, and signed a four-year $21 million contract with the 49ers. The former Baltimore Raven is now the highest paid fullback in the NFL.
During the free agent press conference new General Manager John Lynch had this to say about his high-priced addition. “Let’s not think of him as a fullback. He’s an O.W. So if you see O.W., that stands for offensive weapon. We saw an offensive weapon that this guy is thrilled to be able to use in a number of different capacities,” stated Lynch (49ers.com).
New head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense is built around exploiting mismatches. Juice will be one of Shanahan’s preferred “offensive weapons”. The 49ers envision him being a lead blocker, receiver and short-yardage back. The 49ers didn’t utilize a fullback in 2016. This caused the team to struggle in short yardage situations, and more importantly, the running backs were often met in the backfield by at least one tackler since there was no lead blocker.
In his four-year career, Juszczyk gained 25 yards on the ground on seven carries and one touchdown. Now in terms of receiving, it’s a different story. How about 97 receptions for 769 yards, 7.9 avg., and five touchdowns? His 2015 season was his best statistical season where he led all fullbacks with 41 receptions. Look for those numbers to increase under offensive mastermind/guru/the wizard Kyle the truth Shanahan as the experts have announced and crowned him. He’s the man who keyed Juszczyk as a top priority to sign because he sees him as a player who not only can clear running lanes for his running backs, but also attack defenses with his natural pass catching and tackle breaking ability.
While playing for the Ravens he lined up at halfback, fullback, slot receiver, wide receiver and tight end. He also played on special teams. While in college at Harvard, he played tight end/H-back and finished his collegiate career with 125 catches for 1,576 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Shanahan has a definite plan for Juice. He instantly improves the teams’ talent level physically and mentally. Forty-niners fans will be eager to see him laying the wood on some would-be defenders trying to tackle Carlos Hyde for a critical first down or touchdown.
The 49ers just signed a player in his prime who is viewed as the best at his position and they outbid other teams to seal the deal. After coming off of a 2-14 season and hiring a first-time head coach and general manager. This is a big off-season win for the franchise. In the past, the team was not aggressive in free agency and rarely signed the highest rated player at a position for fear of overpaying. The 49ers made a bold statement with this signing; we are going to aggressively attempt to improve our roster, and we aren’t going to be shy spending the cash!
Niners Live gives his signing an A. His salary is inflated because he was in high demand, but the team views him as an integral part of the offense that will be on the field for the majority of offensive plays. They are also paying for his upside. Juice will be 26 when the season starts; his game should be raised under the tutelage of running back coach connoisseur Bobby Turner. He fills a position of need and plays at a Pro Bowl level. What else can you ask for? #eyeswideopen
On a Niners Live side, note: (Pro Football Focus) gave his contract a C grade. PFF stated that he should have received a contract worth $13.4 million over four years with $8.7 million guarantee instead of the four years and $21 million with the $10.5 million guaranteed he received from the 49ers. The reasoning? Maybe it’s because he didn’t play more than 41.7 percent of his team’s offensive snaps.
GM John Lynch on making Kyle Juszczyk NFL’s highest-paid FB: “He’s worth it to us.” #49ers
— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) March 10, 2017
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author Jimi Payne Staff Writer at Niners live. Co-Author, Editor NinersLive.