As the Kansas City Chiefs continue to prepare for the 2022 NFL regular season, their training camp intensity will continue to get more and more serious. Monday's practice was the first with full pads on, and that signals yet another evolution in the team's offseason program. It's a milestone day for everyone, even those who have been around for a while.
Tight end Travis Kelce, who is the longest-tenured member of the Chiefs heading into this season, has seen and done just about everything in the NFL. The 32-year-old has worked his way up from being a third-round draft pick to blossoming into one of the greatest tight ends in league history. He's a future Hall of Famer who hasn't shown many signs of slowing down and while Father Time is undefeated, Kansas City has put Kelce in a good position to age gracefully.
On the field, Kelce is a game-breaking presence who can make big plays as consistently as anyone. He deserves to be the highest-paid player at his position, but he's been notorious for signing below-his-market contract extensions with the Chiefs. Kansas City took note of that once camp kicked off, coming to an agreement with their superstar on an adjusted deal that gives him a raise for the 2022 campaign. Kelce is appreciative of that gesture, and he said stuff like that is why he loves being where he's at.
“It’s just another reason why I love being here," Kelce said. "I’ve done everything I can to do things the right way – both on the field and in the community. And I’m going to continue to do that. They know that. And they know what type of player they’re going to get, what type of leader they’re going to get in this building and also in the community. (I’m) extremely appreciative of it – that they would even think about it or try to put something together. And (it’s) just another reason why I go out and play my tail off for this city and this organization.”
Kelce's right — the Chiefs didn't have to adjust his contract. They could've continued to pay him well below market value, waiting for the more lucrative tail-end of the deal to kick in so Kelce can make more as he ages. Instead, they opted to move some of that late-contract money to the front and take care of one of their franchise pillars immediately. In turn, Kelce figures to make it more than worth their while.
Under his adjusted contract, Kelce is set to carry a cap hit of $11.74 million in 2022. He's under contract for three additional seasons after that, carrying hits of $14.65M, $16.4M and $18.65M for 2023, 2024 and 2025. Kelce, who turns 33 in October, will be 36 by the time his current deal is up. It remains to be seen how long he'll play after that — or if he will continue his career at all — but he's made one thing clear: he doesn't want to play for another team. Ever.
“I don’t plan on playing anywhere else," Kelce said. "I hope the Chiefs have that in mind too.”