NFL News & Analysis

Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce cashes in with 4-year, $57.25M extension

The Super Bowl-losing tight end cleared the way for the champ, and now it’s Travis Kelce’s turn to cash in. 

Kelce can join teammates Patrick Mahomes and Chris Jones at the bank after receiving a four-year, $57.25 million extension Thursday that keeps him in Kansas City through 2025, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Kelce’s $14.3125 million new average-per-year figure places him firmly in the No. 2 spot at tight end behind Kittle’s $15 million and still well above Austin Hooper’s $10.5 million.

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Kelce has been a truly transcendent talent since entering the league in 2013, routinely among the NFL leaders in many receiving metrics — even when compared to wide receivers. He and his brother, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, have been the gold standard at their respective positions for years. Now, they both have Super Bowl rings and top contracts to show for it. 

Kelce’s deal takes him through his age 36 season, which is ancient for such a physically grueling position. Nevertheless, the Chiefs’ high-flying offense is locked in together for years to come. 

After yet another monster extension coming out of Kansas City, it would be remiss to not point out that the salary cap is, in fact, not fake. The Chiefs will very likely clear cap room in 2020, and perhaps 2021, with Kelce’s extension, as he was set to earn $11.2 million on the cap in 2020 and $9 million in 2021 under the terms of his old deal. 

The Chiefs' front office brain trust of Brett Veach, Brandt Tilis and Chris Shea has done well to keep the band together for now, but check back in 2022 to see how real a hard salary cap truly is.

On the field, Kelce has been a central part of Kansas City's offense since before Mahomes arrived, but his game is as important as ever now that they have the game’s best quarterback throwing him passes. 

Whereas George Kittle is a throwback player to the time where tight ends were powerful blockers in addition to being weapons in the passing game, Kelce is far more of the new breed where blocking is secondary to the work as a receiver.

Over the past three seasons, Kelce leads all tight ends in targets (386), receptions (283), receiving yards (3,603) and touchdowns (23). He has over 600 yards more than the next closest player and has 27 more first-down catches than anybody else. Kelce runs — both during routes and after the catch — like a wide receiver and has excellent hands (just 20 drops on those 386 targets), making him one of the most difficult-to-cover threats in the league.

Though he doesn’t block like Kittle, Kelce isn’t a liability in that area, as the Chiefs don’t ask him to execute the same blocks that the 49ers do of their star tight end. As a player more often split out into the slot or even out wide, Kelce is usually matched up with defensive backs and is rarely one on one with defensive linemen. For that reason, his blocking grades have been solid over the past few seasons.

Kelce is also one of the best threats after the catch in the league, and he has been since the day he entered the NFL. He has broken double-digit tackles in each of his NFL seasons, and though his pace has slowed a little over the past couple of years, he has still averaged over 6 yards after the catch per reception for his entire career. Passes thrown his way during his time in the NFL have yielded an absurd 119.8 passer rating — two points higher than Ryan Tannehill’s crazy passing performance last year. 

Travis Kelce and George Kittle are the two best tight ends in football. They play the game in a different way, and have different skill sets, but each is a fundamentally important component of his current offense, and both are key pieces to lock down for the long term.

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