Since the Kansas City Chiefs drafted TE Travis Kelce with the 63rd overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the eighth-year pro has become one of the league’s most decorated playmakers. In 2019 alone, Kelce compiled his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season, fifth consecutive Pro Bowl nod and first Super Bowl title.
As the years go by and Kansas City approaches a few franchise-altering financial decisions with the contracts of QB Patrick Mahomes, DT Chris Jones and others, questions of how long the Chiefs can keep the band together have already begun to arise.
As a part of Tyrann Mathieu’s “Radiothon” on 610 Sports Radio on Thursday, the two-time All-Pro tight end joined “The Drive” to discuss a number of topics, including his thoughts on early retirement or potentially playing for another franchise in the future.
Here were Kelce’s full comments, per Arrowhead Pride:
“I always say I want to play this game as long as I can,” said Kelce. “There’s a whole lot of truth behind that, and I love playing in Kansas City. I can’t even fathom wearing another jersey. I can’t fathom playing under a different coach, under a different organization. Everybody here knows that I love this city for everything that it has given me, it has given the Chiefs since I’ve been here, and I don’t plan on playing anywhere else for the rest of my career. As long as the Hunt family is offering me a check to come back every single year, I feel like I’m going to be here because I love playing for this organization and obviously, coach Reid.”
Financials Could Impact Kelce’s Staying Power
Kelce most recently signed a five-year, $46.8 million extension in early 2016 and remains under contract through the conclusion of the 2021 season. The 30-year-old currently accounts for the sixth-highest average annual salary ($9.36M) on the Chiefs roster and the third-highest among all tight ends — trailing only Hunter Henry ($10.6M) and Austin Hooper ($10.5M).
While Kelce has yet to show any immediate signs of slowing down physically, the possibility of the franchise needing to make a difficult decision on one of their star receivers in the coming seasons remains on the table. Especially considering that the defending Super Bowl champions currently devote the largest percentage of their salary cap allotment (19.02%) to the wide receiver position and eighth-most (6.11%) to the tight end spot, per Spotrac.
Kelce’s place on the roster this season is as close to a lock as any player around the NFL, but the star tight end carries zero dead cap money into his age-31 season in 2021. Assuming Mahomes resets the market with a mega-deal prior to the start of the 2020 season, this could be something worth monitoring in the coming years.
Re-Visiting Tony Gonzalez’s Departure From K.C.
Widely considered one of the most dominant all-around playmakers in the game today, Kelce’s career has been nothing short of exemplary since his arrival in Kansas City. However, much the same was said of another All-Pro tight end, Tony Gonzalez, before Gonzalez’s relationship with the front office turned ugly in his early 30s.
Following a dismal 2-14 performance in 2008, in which the then-32-year-old Gonzalez had requested a trade midway through the season, the Hall of Famer was dealt to the Atlanta Falcons in exchange for a 2010 second-round draft pick. The 14-time Pro Bowler has since revealed to The Athletic that he was “absolutely angry” with how he was treated during the process, and that the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles were also in on a potential trade.
Scott Pioli, the Chiefs general manager at the time, made it clear that while the Falcons had approached him with the offer, it was not an easy decision to move on from one of the best players in the franchise’s history.
“From an organizational as well as personal standpoint there are mixed emotions,” said Pioli. “I have the highest personal and professional respect for Tony and consider him to be a future Pro Football Hall of Famer … This is something we really feel was a decision in the best short-term and long-term interest of the Chiefs.”
While a new regime under GM Brett Veach is now calling the shots, loyalty — no matter the level — has not historically stopped NFL front offices from doing what is in the best interest of the organization at the time. Fortunately for Chiefs fans, Kelce remains a focal point of Andy Reid’s Super Bowl-winning offense and continues to be treated as such heading into the 2020 season.