Instead of competing with one another as bitter rivals, the pair have joined forces in recent years to create “Tight End University,” which is an offseason minicamp workout for any and all players of the position. In 2022, class will once again be in session as pro tight ends head to Vanderbilt University in Nashville from June 22-24.
According to Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports, the program’s goal is to “further the position as a whole,” by watching film together, conducting on-field drills, and discussing how to better their bodies long-term.
It’s an admirable event aimed at bettering and promoting the tight-end role, and Kittle has backed this movement full throttle.
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Kittle: Kelce’s Contract ‘Boggles My Mind’
During a candid interview with Mike Florio of “Pro Football Talk,” Kittle harped on the opinion that Kelce — and tight ends in general — are massively underpaid. He voiced:
I mean, Travis Kelce, six seasons in a row, 1,000 yards. I’m pretty sure he has the most receiving yards over any wide receiver [or] skill position in the last six years. He 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. So he’s a player I look at like, when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s a monster.
Kittle also highlighted peers like Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, T.J. Hockenson and fellow Iowa alum Robert Tonyan. “More tight ends are starting to get the ball more, starting to be more part of the offense, be more explosive,” he reasoned.
Continuing: “There [are] 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 a hell of a football player.”
Florio pushed on the subject after the bold show of support from Kittle, which led to one final response on financials, comparing the tight end and wide receiver positions.
The All-Pro concluded: “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 [as] a part of the team. 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.”
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Good for Kelce, Bad for the Chiefs
Although most — if not all — Chiefs fans would probably agree that Kelce deserves to be paid more money based on his consistency, production and leadership, a larger check to the superstar tight end would present a challenge for the front office.
General manager Brett Veach just traded Tyreek Hill for the same reason and this fanbase couldn’t bear to lose another key cog in Kelce.
The unfortunate reality is that this has always been the way of the NFL. ‘Premium positions’ like quarterback, edge rusher, left tackle and wide receiver tend to get paid on a much greater scale. Running backs have been complaining about this for a long time and Kittle’s argument definitely has merit as well.
The top tight ends are an asset in both the run game as blockers and the passing attack as playmakers. They do it all.
Having said that, there is also a much larger disparity at the position from the Kelces and Kittles to the average NFL starters. That makes it a challenge to find someone willing to overpay a tight end by a significant margin.
Tight End University is aiming to chip away at that issue, as the two legends attempt to help train their peers and lessen the talent gap. Change may not occur while they’re around to reap the benefits, but none of this was ever really about Kelce or Kittle.
It’s about their successors — and that’s an awesome legacy to leave behind.