With free agency scheduled to officially open on March 17, it’s a good time to take a closer look at positions of need on the Kansas City Chiefs. I have looked at the offensive tackles, defensive ends, wide receivers, centers, cornerbacks, guards, and linebackers. In this article, I’ll examine the tight ends.
Who they have
In his All-Pro 2020 season, Kelce started every game besides Week 17. He played 82% of the regular-season offensive snaps and roughly 90% of the playoff snaps. Kelce led the Chiefs in targets (145), receptions (105) and receiving yards (1,416). His receiving yardage total was the second-most of any NFL player during the regular season — and the most by a tight end in NFL history. In the postseason, Kelce also led the team in targets (39), receptions (31), receiving yards (360) and touchdown catches (three).
Kelce was debatably at the peak of his powers in 2020. He doesn’t have the straight-ahead speed he used to have, but he’s mastered running routes and diagnosing coverages to make up for it. On top of that, his chemistry with Mahomes makes him nearly unguardable without two defenders.
He’ll turn 32 in October and is currently signed through the 2025 season. He’s been incredibly durable in his career since the knee injury in his rookie season. Eventually, age and mileage will catch up to him though. It could be smart to get out ahead of it in 2021 by reducing Kelce’s snaps — and finding a backup capable of spelling him.
My opinion: Be proactive with wear-and-tear on Kelce; add a capable, second tight end.
Evan Baylis and Sean Culkin
Both players were signed to reserve/future deals following the 2020 season. Since entering the league undrafted in 2017, Baylis has played 11 total games with three different teams; he’s seen 71 offensive snaps with no statistics recorded. He earned his first career start for the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12 of 2020.
Culkin was also signed after going undrafted in the 2017 draft. He’s played 19 career games, recording two catches for 38 yards on three targets. He last played in Week 4 of 2019 for the Los Angeles Chargers. In that game, he recorded a 12-yard catch and played a career-high 58% of the offensive snaps — but unfortunately, he tore his Achilles later in the game.
These two will be fighting for that third-string tight end job unless the Chiefs continue to be okay with mediocre play from their second tight end.
My opinion: Add a more capable player than these two.
Who they could sign
The Chiefs haven’t had a legitimate pass-catching threat behind Kelce since Demetrius Harris in 2018. Restricted free agent Deon Yelder has shown spurts, but it’s been reported that he will not be re-signing. Nick Keizer — last year’s second tight end — is also a restricted free agent.
I believe it’s in the Chiefs’ best interest to invest as much as they ever have in a tight end to pair with Kelce. Some available free-agent options include former Minnesota Viking Kyle Rudolph, the Los Angeles Rams’ Gerald Everett, the Buffalo Bills’ Tyler Kroft and Indianapolis Colt Trey Burton. They could also bring back the aforementioned Harris, who is a 30-year old unrestricted free agent.
Another solution could be Philadephlia Eagles’ veteran tight end Zach Ertz, who the Chiefs are reported to have interest in trading for.
Who they could draft
My preferred route to address this position is through the draft. Find a tight end with some receiving upside. I wouldn’t advocate for it as the first pick, but any selection after that should have tight end in consideration at the least.
Higher-tier prospects include Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth, Miami’s Brevin Jordan — who the Chiefs have had consistent contact with — and Notre Dame’s Tommy Tremble. In the later rounds, the Chiefs could look at Boston College’s Hunter Long, Ole Miss’ Kenny Yeboah or BYU’s Matt Bushman.