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Chiefs roster analysis: Wide receivers and tight ends

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to part six of our seven part series where we go over the Chiefs roster and their current cap situation. Today’s article will be about the tight end and wide receiver position groups.

If you’d like to catch up on the prior articles you can do so below:

  1. Linebackers
  2. Defensive Backs
  3. Defensive Line
  4. Offensive Line
  5. Running Backs

For starters, let’s dive into some general information.

General Information

Below is a graph showing the Chiefs number of TE and WR contracts for 2017.

Before picking up Albert Wilson’s option, the Chiefs were tied for having the fewest wide receivers under contract in the NFL. Currently the Chiefs have six wide receivers under contract. The Chiefs are likely to be interested in adding some wide receiver bodies in the draft or free agency.

The Chiefs have four tight ends under contract which is pretty standard compared to the rest of the NFL.

Let’s take a look at each of the Chiefs current WR and TE contract cap hits going into the 2017 season.

TE/WR Contract Info

Name Age Cap Hit
Name Age Cap Hit
Demetrius Harris 25 $1,550,000
Travis Kelce 27 $5,418,400
Jame O'Shaughnessy 25 $665,563
Ross Travis 24 $540,000
Chris Conley 24 $838,109
Tyreek Hill 23 $586,260
Seantavius Jones 24 $615,000
Jeremy Maclin 28 $12,400,000
Demarcus Robinson 22 $678,293
Albert Wilson 24 $1,797,000

Does anyone else feel like having Travis Kelce for $5.4 million on the books is a steal?

Now let’s see just how much money the Chiefs are spending on their WR and TE positions. We’ll break it down into two separate graphs.

The Chiefs have spent about $16.9 million on their wide receivers which puts them around the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the NFL.

The Chiefs have spent roughly $8.2 million on their tight ends. This places the Chiefs in the upper third of the league in terms of total tight end spending.

Lastly, let’s look at the percentage of cap dollars spent the Chiefs utilize towards their WR and TE positions. I decided to group this graph together so we can see how much teams place on their entire receiving corps.

The Chiefs spend about 15.6 percent of the total cap space on the WR and TE positions. This puts them at spending the 14th lowest percentage of cap space on WRs and TEs in the NFL.

Fun fact: Adding Albert Wilson’s contract jumped the Chiefs percentage spent by only 1.1 percent.


Below are two graphs comparing all of the Chiefs wide receivers and tight ends ages with the rest of the NFL.

The Chiefs currently have the ninth youngest wide receiving group in the NFL. The average age of a Chiefs wide receiver is 24.17 years of age.

The Chiefs have the 13th youngest tight end group in the NFL. The average age of their tight ends is 25.25 years of age.

Both the TE and the WR position groups are in the lower half of the NFL in terms of age. Both groups are in good shape in terms of age and all the pitfalls that can accompany getting older in the NFL. An infusion of youth at either the TE position, or the WR position is not absolutely needed.

WR - Cost Efficiency

There were two areas I wanted to look at in regards to gauging the performance of a wide receiver: receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t apply value to a wide receiver who consistently gets open and does not have the ball thrown to them. We’ll just go ahead and disregard that for the sake of this article.

OK, let’s take a look at the first item from above, the cost efficiency of the Chiefs WRs in regards to receiving yards.

The Chiefs are near the bottom third of the league in terms of cost efficiency for wide receiver yards. There are a few points that could be made here.

The first thought is perhaps the Chiefs will do better in 2017 if Maclin doesn’t get injured. The second thought could be the Chiefs may want to spend less on their WR position (we’ll cover potential cuts later on.) However, I believe cutting a WR is a bad idea since the Chiefs only currently have six WRs under contract for 2017. The third thought is the Chiefs may want to invest in the WR position through the draft.

Lastly, maybe the WRs bottom third cost effectiveness is a product of Alex Smith’s productivity. One could argue the Chiefs should not invest heavily in the wide receiver position if the quarterback has not had historically high passing yardage totals.

Fun fact: After signing Albert Wilson, the Chiefs WR yardage cost efficiency actually improved by one position.

Now let’s take a look at cost effectiveness as it relates to wide receiver touchdowns.

In terms of wide receiver touchdown efficiency, the Chiefs fall in the bottom half of the league. Like the receiving yards, this is not good.

The Chiefs are in a tough spot with their wide receiver position. Do the Chiefs need to upgrade the WR position? Do they need to get a WR who has a nose for the end zone? Is the QB position to blame?

As things often are in life, it’s probably a mixture of all the above that ails the Chiefs passing attack.

TE - Cost Efficiency

Here’s a position group I have been looking forward to researching. Surely the Chiefs with Travis Kelce only having a cap hit of $5.4 million should be in a good spot going forward. Right?

I decided to use receiving yards and receiving touchdowns to measure how the Chiefs TEs have played. I know TEs do a lot more than just catch the ball, but I don’t have the ability or time to track every block Kelce threw in 2016.

Let’s start by looking at tight end cost efficiency concerning receiving yards.

There we go! That’s what I’m talking about!

The Chiefs have the fourth most efficient TE group in the NFL in terms of receiving yards cost efficiency heading into the 2017 season. Thank you Travis Kelce.

Now let’s take a look at TE touchdowns cost efficiency.

Unfortunately, in terms of TE touchdown cost efficiency the Chiefs fall back down to Earth as they are ranked in the middle of the league.

Once again questions persist: Is it the TEs fault? Is it the QBs fault?

That being said the Chiefs may have interest in a big bodied, long red zone type tight end in the draft or free agency. That is unless they believe Demetrius Harris can continue to fill that role adequately.

Trimming Some Cap Fat?

I’m not sure the Chiefs are in a good position to cut any of their WRs or TEs, but if the Chiefs somehow find themselves in cap hell they may have to do something drastic.

Below is a table containing the contract information for each Chiefs WR/TE who is set to make more than a million dollars in 2017.

Name Cap Hit Pre-June 1 Cut Dead Money Pre-June 1 Cut Cap Savings Post-June 1 Cut Dead Money Post-June 1 Cut Cap Savings
Name Cap Hit Pre-June 1 Cut Dead Money Pre-June 1 Cut Cap Savings Post-June 1 Cut Dead Money Post-June 1 Cut Cap Savings
Demetrius Harris $1,550,000 $400,000 $1,150,000 $200,000 $1,350,000
Travis Kelce $5,418,400 $9,842,000 -$4,423,600 $1,968,400 $3,450,000
Jeremy Maclin $12,400,000 $7,200,000 $9,700,000 $2,400,000 $10,000,000
Albert Wilson $1,797,000 $0 $1,797,000 $0 $1,797,000

I would label both Maclin and Kelce as extremely “uncuttable.” Harris on the other hand is a player who could be cut if the Chiefs wanted to save a little over a million dollars in cap room.

Given Harris’ recent off field issue, his drop percentage, and the large talent pool of tight ends in the 2017 draft, I would watch his status going forward.

The other player who could be a potential cut is Albert Wilson. I could see Wilson being cut if the Chiefs upgraded their WR position through the draft or free agency and Wilson is no longer needed as a third or fourth wide receiver.

After June 1st, Maclin’s contract becomes much easier to part ways with, but I can’t fathom a world where Dorsey cuts Maclin without an obvious replacement; especially when the Chiefs wide receiver group really needs help production-wise.

Going Forward

After evaluating some of the numbers for the Chiefs receiving corps, I believe the Chiefs biggest area for improvement is their receivers and tight ends ability to catch touchdown passes.

This is why I believe the Chiefs may show some interest in a larger, jump ball type TE or WR with a nose for the end zone.

Of course I’m not sure if Alex Smith would throw jump balls even if he has this type of player, but I think he would if the offense called for it.

Originally the only free agent I found that fit this mold was Brandon Marshall, but he was signed to a two year deal with the Giants.

The Draft

  • TE Adam Shaheen, projected round - 2
  • TE Bucky Hodges, projected round - 2/3
  • TE Jeremy Sprinkle, projected round - 4/5
  • This draft looks to be loaded in tight ends

Sadly, there are no prototypical big bodied wide receivers in this years draft that are valued highly by most draft gurus (unless you count Mike Williams who will probably be gone by the time the Chiefs pick in the first round.)

Where the WR position is lacking in this draft, the TE position more than makes up for it. It appears as though there is an abundance of talent at the TE position in the 2017 draft, especially for players who are solid in the end zone.

I would be happy if the Chiefs drafted any one of those three tight ends above (as well as many others). While Kelce is a great all around threat, Andy Reid doesn’t really ask him to go up high after contested balls.

If Smith had another reliable tight end to throw to in tough yardage situations, I could see it paying dividends.


Once again we covered a lot of information and it’s time to recap.

  1. The Chiefs WR and TE positions need to improve in the red zone.
  2. The Chiefs are getting poor value from their wide receivers, especially in terms of receiving yardage.
  3. The draft is loaded with big bodied TEs who could help the Chiefs with their red zone woes.
  4. Dorsey has done a great job with Travis Kelce’s contract.
  5. The Chiefs only have six WRs under contract, they will likely add some bodies somewhere along the way.
  6. The Chiefs need to improve at WR, but given Smith and Reid’s history with the position it’s probably not a high priority investment.
  7. Demetrius Harris and Albert Wilson are the most likely WR/TE candidates to get cut if the Chiefs need a little cap space, with Harris likely to be cut first.

The next article will be the last of the series, and we’ll be covering the quarterback position. I know some of you are pretty curious to see what the Chiefs pay per QB touchdown compared to the rest of the NFL. Should be interesting!