Offseason tight end needs: Competition for the No. 2 Job
When Travis Kelce has missed any time due to injury, the KC Chiefs offense has struggled. Teams could focus on taking away Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt and force the Chiefs to throw to backup tight ends Demetrius Harris or Orson Charles.
In 2018, Sammy Watkins and the return of Chris Conley will give the Chiefs offense other receiving options, but none can replicate the dimension Kelce adds from the tight end position.
In addition to an additional receiving threat, the Chiefs need tight ends that can block and clear the way for runners, both at the line of scrimmage and downfield. Whether Demetrius Harris or Orson Charles can be that additional blocker is a subject that’s up for debate.
Upgrading the depth at tight end isn’t the most critical need for the Chiefs, but it’s a nice-to-have that could help this already high-powered offense keep rolling through a long NFL season (and hopefully postseason)
Returning: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris
Kelce is a star. He’s the most reliable chain-mover on the offense, a dynamic downfield threat and a pretty underrated blocker.
Harris has come a long way (did you hear he used to play basketball in college). He’s worked hard to improve his blocking and has made some big catches for this team but he’s also had some big drops. His drop percentage is consistently among the highest in the league. Harris also has a pending legal issue that could affect his availability. The Chiefs did just pay a roster bonus, so it could be that Harris’s job is safe, but the Chiefs interest in the tight end market might hint otherwise.
Additions: Jace Amaro, Dillon Gordon
Jace Amaro is one of the more interesting futures contracts signed by the team this offseason. A former second round pick out of Texas Tech, Amaro was thought to be the NFL’s next dynamic receiving tight end, or oversized slot receiver. He looked the part, at over 6’5 and 265 pounds with 34” arms. In his rookie season with the Jets, Amaro looked the part of a guy that could at least help in the short and intermediate passing game. He played in 14 games, with four starts, 38 catches for 345 yards and two TDs. A torn labrum ended his 2015 season before it began, and he never really was able to move up the depth chart for the Titans. The three catches and 59 yards he had in his first game there would be the final stat line of his Titans career. Assuming he’s healthy, Amaro is one to watch in Chiefs camp. He certainly has the ability to do some of the things we’ve seen from Kelce: being a downfield threat up the seam and a reliable target for Mahomes.
Unknowns: Orson Charles
Charles is an intriguing option for the Chiefs offense, if for no other reason, the fact that he can play both tight end and fullback positions. Charles is a former fourth round pick with some athleticism. He’s a selfless player who prides himself on blocking, and certainly has the strength do do so. As a receiver, he still has some work to do, and he’ll never be on Kelce’s level (few are). But can he still help provide depth? The fact that he can function as the No. 3 TE and No. 2 FB might bode well for him, especially if he can help on special teams.
Comparison to 2017: Same (for now)
It’s entirely possible that the top three tight ends on the Chiefs roster will be the same as the group that finished 2017: Kelce, Harris and Charles. If that group improves, it’s because Orson Charles gets better and/or Mahomes makes them all look like dynamic pass-catchers.
At this point, Amaro is the only new addition that could help move the needle at the position, and he’s a bit of a long shot. If he breaks out and makes the roster, the Chiefs finally have a second receiving tight end behind Kelce, and Harris is either the No. 3 or not on the roster. That could be a nice upgrade to the position as compared to last season.
It also seems very possible that Brett Veach continues to look for upgrades in free agency and the draft. The team was rumored to have interest in an aging veteran like Ben Watson. They’ve also reportedly been doing their work on the tight end prospects in the draft. After all of the work the Chiefs have done to add weapons for Mahomes, drafting a tight end might be the most impactful (and likely) move they could make to improve the offense.