While watching the Kansas City Chiefs’ star players dominate in their prime years has been and will continue to be a thrill to watch, there is one player on offense that is inching towards the latter part of his career, at least so we think. That player is three-time All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce.
Kelce, who turns 32 on October 5, is entering his ninth season in the NFL. No matter the position, any NFL player — with the exception of Tom Brady, of course — that begins to creep into their 30s is believed to be entering the decline in terms of their NFL production, even in a day and age in which medicine and physical fitness techniques are at an all-time high. However, one Hall of Famer with ties to the Chiefs believes Kelce is far from exiting his prime and thinks it all comes down to the mindset of Kelce as he nears the decade mark of his career.
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Gonzalez: ‘He’s Got Another Five Years’
Former Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez, who is in the argument as the best tight end of all time alongside Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski, was asked about possibly seeing Kelce slow down production-wise as he climbs into his 30s. And Gonzalez was adamant that Kelce has plenty of “top quality football” left in him.
“Hey, I played until I was 37! I was a Pro Bowler my last year in the league and made First Team All-Pro at 36! Age doesn’t even mean a thing to me. It’s a mental thing,” Gonzalez said while comparing his experience in the NFL in his late 30s to what Kelce is about to endure, via CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr.
“From what I know about Travis, he’s a competitive dude. He’s got Patrick Mahomes, he’s got Andy Reid, he’s got Tyreek Hill to make the defense stay off you and he gets to operate 1-on-1. There is no way (he’ll decline). He’s got another five years of top quality football in him — that’s if he wants to. He has a Hall of Fame type of career already and I think he’s going to put a nice bow on that over these next three or four years. He’ll go down in that argument as the best tight end ever, with me, Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) and all these other guys that have played before me and after me. He’ll be right in that conversation with all of us playing another couple of seasons.”
Kelce in 30s Thus Far
Kelce has two seasons under his belt in his 30s and has shown zero decline. At 30 years old, Kelce caught 97 balls for 1,229 yards and five touchdowns during the 2019 season, per Pro Football Reference. At age 31 he blew those numbers out of the water, corralling 105 passes for 1,416 yards and 11 touchdowns, which were all career highs, during the 2020 season. Because of this and because of the team that is around him in 2021, we should expect to see the same, or crazily enough, better numbers from the Chiefs’ tight end this season.
A completely overhauled offensive line alongside Kelce this season will allow quarterback Patrick Mahomes more time in the pocket, giving him ample opportunities to scan the field, find the open target downfield, and complete more passes. Mahomes’ No. 1 target in the passing game is undoubtedly Kelce, which means beating his career-high of 105 receptions this season is not at all out of the realm of possibility for him.
If Gonzalez is in fact right about Kelce and the decline is a long way away for him, then another All-Pro season is certainly in the works for the veteran tight end in 2021.
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