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George Kittle explains why Travis Kelce, all top tight ends deserve higher salaries

Does the Chiefs tight end deserve more money? Almost definitely. But there’s more to it than that.

NFL: Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL’s best tight ends over the past few seasons — Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle — are making the media rounds as they promote the second annual “Tight End University.”

The three-day event is set to take place following the conclusion of the Chiefs’ organized team activities (OTAs) — in mid-June (more here).

During a recent media stop with ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, Kittle made some noteworthy comments regarding Kelce’s salary.

“I mean Travis Kelce, six seasons in a row, 1,000 yards,” said Kittle. “I’m pretty sure he has the most receiving yards over any wide receiver, skill position in the last six years.”

As it turns out, Kittle had done his research, with Kelce accumulating more yards over that span than the likes of wide receivers Davante Adams, Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins.

“[Kelce] gets paid half of what a wide receiver makes, which just boggles my mind. I mean, to me, Travis Kelce, he’s been doing it for so long and at such a high level. And he doesn’t have an off game. I think he has one bad game a year, and it’s just because he’s getting triple-teamed.

“He’s a player I look at like, when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s a monster.... More tight ends and more tight ends are starting to get the ball more, starting to be more part of the offense, be more explosive. [I] love watching Darren Waller. [I] love watching Mark Andrews. [Zach] Ertz is really fun now down in Arizona. That’s just fun to see him just kind of dominate, getting a lot of touchdowns. [T.J.] Hockenson , [Robert] Tonyan . There’s all these tight ends that are explosive and fun to watch, but Kelce — when you have six 1,000 [yard seasons] in a row, you’re hell of a football player.”

Kittle’s words make for no surprise, coming as a result of what transpired in the wide receiver market this past offseason. General manager Brett Veach recently explained that when the wide receiver market “exploded,” the Chiefs had to completely shift their offseason plans — eventually opting to trade Tyreek Hill instead of signing him to a new contract.

Where this could become something to watch is with tight ends who produce as top receivers — such as Kelce, Kittle and Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (when healthy) and Baltimore Ravens tight end Mark Andrews. They collectively have a very good case: if they are going to be among the league’s top producers in receiving yardage, they deserve to be paid as such.

Kittle has a slight advantage over Kelce in this type of discussion, as the 28-year-old is four years younger than the 32-year-old Kelce. There is more uncertainty as to whether Kelce could maintain his 1,000-yards-per-year level of production — even if, to be fair, he has shown absolutely no sign of slowing down. I would also have a question about Kelce’s desire to leave quarterback Patrick Mahomes. My answer would be simple: no.

“Every NFL team that’s won a Super Bowl or been to the Super Bowl for like the last five years has had an All-Pro tight end a part of the team,” continued Kittle. “I feel a tight end’s not just like a cog in the wheel, it’s an important position that can really add to your offense or diminish it.”

Maybe there is a future answer somewhere in the middle.

With the decision to trade Hill, let safety Tyrann Mathieu walk (and so on), the Chiefs have made it clear that no one player (other than Mahomes, obviously) is more important than maintaining cap flexibility so they can have quality players at every position.

It is doubtful they would be willing to pay a 32-year-old Kelce in the range of $30 million per year as a top receiver — especially considering his average salary currently stands at $14,312,500 for a contract that does not expire until 2026. But there could conceivably be a “good-will” adjustment — or correction — in the cards. CBS Sports cap analyst Joel Corry has always been stunned by the sheer team-friendliness of Kelce’s current deal.

At a certain point, the tight ends who serve as elite receivers will want to be part of the “explosion,” as Veach called it. And you really can’t blame Kittle for getting the ball rolling.