The Kansas City Chiefs continue to lock up every single piece of the team’s nucleus for their long-term championship window. Star tight end Travis Kelce signed a four-year contract extension that will see him in red and gold through the 2025 season — making him one of a select few Chiefs players under contract for 2023 and beyond.
Turning 31 years old in October, Kelce is already one of the oldest players on the team — yet his extension indicates that he is nowhere near the end of his playing days. He’s played six seasons in Kansas City, and he’s about to play six more.
The signing was just another example of excellent work by Chiefs general manager Brett Veach. I gathered three things to like about Kelce’s contract extension.
1. Mahomes’ top target is locked up for his prime
Since quarterback Patrick Mahomes took the starting quarterback reigns in Week 1 of 2018, no Chiefs player has seen more targets, caught more passes or earned more receiving yards than Kelce has. Only star wide receiver Tyreek Hill has caught more touchdowns on the team.
In the postseason, it’s more of the same. He leads the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns over the last two playoff runs and is second in targets and receiving yards.
Not only does Kelce get the most volume of the Chiefs offensive weapons; he also impacts the game more efficiently than most. He earned a first down 31 more times than any other Chiefs receiver did through the air last season, and the 124.8 passer rating when targeting Kelce was second on the team behind the ridiculous 153.3 result from targeting wide receiver Mecole Hardman.
Kelce is Mahomes’ top target in any scenario — but especially when there are 10 or more yards to go for a conversion. Kelce saw the most targets and receptions in that scenario than any other distance to convert in 2019, and he caught three of his five regular-season touchdowns on those plays.
2. The 2020 and 2022 cap numbers
Like I mentioned before, this is another brilliantly designed contract negotiation by Brett Veach and the rest of the Chiefs front office. The way they have performed this summer has left NFL fans questioning the legitimacy of an NFL salary cap. In reality, it’s just been a well-thought out plan for each particular deal.
First, the Chiefs negotiated to not alter Kelce’s cash flow number in 2020. It remains at $9.25 million — the same as it was before the extension. This allows the Chiefs to remain flexbile; yes, there is still cap room to sign a quality player before the 2020 regular season begins. The bigger number comes in 2021, when the Chiefs owe Kelce $13.25 million.
The 2022 cash flow is the lowest amount out of all six years remaining on Kelce’s contract. This was no coincidence: 2022 is the first year that Mahomes will begin to get more expensive than his initial rookie deal. The cushion of Kelce’s low cash flow that season will give Veach the opportunity to put another potential signer’s cash flow in that year.
3. Kelce will break team and NFL records
By the end of the new extension, Kelce will have played 12 seasons in a Chiefs uniform. That would match Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez for the amount of years he played in Kansas City as well.
In terms of career statistics as a Chief, here is where the two stand:
All-time Tight End Statistics as Kansas City Chiefs
|Statistic||Tony Gonzalez||Travis Kelce|
|Statistic||Tony Gonzalez||Travis Kelce|
|Seasons played in KC||12||6|
Simple math shows that Kelce’s career pace is on par with Gonzalez’s — in fact, the same pace would surpass Gonzalez in receptions and receiving yards by the end of his deal. He is on pace to fall short of Gonzalez’s touchdown mark by two.
However, his career pace has picked up since Mahomes became the starting quarterback. If he continues on the statistical pace he’s had in the past two seasons, he will earn more receiving yards than Gonzalez did in his Chiefs career by 2023. That same pace should have him breaking Gonzalez’s receptions mark in the early weeks of 2024 — and matching the 76 touchdown total in the final season of his deal.
Besides surpassing a great from the same franchise, Kelce has the opportunity to join all-time lists — and it could happen sooner than later. If he can earn more than 100 receptions, 1,097 receiving yards, and double-digit touchdowns in 2020, he will enter the all-time tight end top 10 list for each of those statistics.
If he keeps roughly the same career pace as he has so far with Mahomes, he would climb to number two all-time in tight end receiving yards, three in receptions and somewhere in the top five for scores.