George Kittle Signs Extension with 49ers, What's Next for Chiefs and Travis Kelce?
The new deal pays Kittle $15 million per year and makes him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL by a wide margin and the 12th-highest-paid pass-catcher in the league, behind 11 wide receivers.
Even with this market-resetting deal for the position, most tight ends in the NFL won't be able to reasonably compare themselves to Kittle, so asking for something in the $15 million range annually would be impractical. That is not the case, however, for Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce's 2016 extension has paid him approximately $9.4 million per year, and he's nearly due for a new deal.
Kelce's five-year, $46.8 million deal in 2016 has been a bargain for the Chiefs, as he's carried cap hits of roughly $5.5 million, $10 million, $10.7 million, $11.2 million and $9 million over the course of the deal. Now, with his deal up after the 2021 season, the Chiefs and Kelce are well within a reasonable range of negotiation to keep things from becoming uncertain next season.
Back in June, Jordan Foote of Arrowhead Report wrote about how general manager Brett Veach would have been wise to look at extending Kelce before Kittle's deal got done. Foote expected Kittle to land in the $12-$16 million range annually, then laid out a plan along with Arrowhead Report's Conner Christopherson.
Kelce’s age plays to the Chiefs’ advantage a bit. He only has a few “prime” seasons left, and his next long-term deal very well could be his last multi-year pact. In the fourth installment of his The Art of NFL Contracts series, Arrowhead Report’s Conner Christopherson broke down how a Kelce extension would not only make him happy and prolong his time in Kansas City, but it would also create a bit of immediate cap relief. Christopherson’s hypothetical contract carried base salaries of $11 million and $12 million for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, respectively. They also came with prorated signing bonuses of $3.5 million for each of those years.
The Chiefs will have to decide how many more prime seasons they expect to see from Kelce and what they can afford under an increasingly crowded salary cap. While the numbers may require Veach and his supporting cast to revisit their most complex spreadsheets, the team has shown that they're willing to move mountains to keep Patrick Mahomes' weapons around him.