After the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in 2021’s opening preseason game — and tight end Jody Fortson had turned heads with his play — I wrote about the struggles the Chiefs have had at the position.
Over the years, the Chiefs have tried many things to find their next Tony Gonzalez — and later, their next Travis Kelce. Except for locating Kelce, nothing has really worked.
One of their more unique attempts was to convert a former basketball player to a tight end. While Demetrius Harris didn’t give the team the results they wanted, he’s still been the most productive player they’ve had behind their most recent superstar tight end.
As it turns out, the team’s general manager Brett Veach has felt much the same way.
“I feel like the last few years, we’ve been looking for third and fourth tight ends,” he told reporters on Wednesday — the day after the release of the team’s initial 53-man roster. “To be able to get Blake Bell in the offseason — and then draft Noah Gray — and then have Jody Fortson have such a great camp? We’ve been on the other end in regard to how hard it is to find third and fourth tight ends.”
Before the release of the initial roster, there had been a lot of speculation about how many tight ends Kansas City would keep on final cutdown day. Some believed that keeping four would be difficult — at least without negatively impacting other position groups.
But then, during Friday night’s preseason finale against the Minnesota Vikings, head coach Andy Reid called a play with four tight ends on the field — 14 Personnel, meaning one running back and four tight ends — which resulted in a touchdown pass to Bell. It sure looked like the Chiefs were seriously considering keeping all of them.
“We were committed to the four tight end process,” Veach confirmed. “But the combination of these guys earning it, Coach certainly having a plan to utilize these guys — and just knowing how hard they are to find — all played into the process.”
But Veach also acknowledged one other factor: his phone had been ringing since Friday night’s game ended.
“I also took three or four calls from teams asking about our tight ends over the weekend. So it became clear that [if they were waived], these guys weren’t making it through the claim period.”
Still... Veach was reluctant to say that particular factor ended up carrying much weight in the team’s decision.
“I don’t think it was a situation where we thought, ‘Well, they want these guys, so let’s keep them — because we can’t get them on the practice squad,’” he maintained.
But however it came to be, 14 Personnel looks like it will be one of the team’s options this season.