Chiefs Extend Tender to Red Zone Threat: Report

Jody Fortson

Getty Kansas City Chiefs tight end Jody Fortson prepares for the 2023 Super Bowl.

The Kansas City Chiefs took care of some housekeeping on March 14, extending a contract tender to tight end Jody Fortson.

NFL Network reporter James Palmer was the first to relay the news, noting that the fan favorite red zone threat was being tendered as an exclusive rights free agent. This secures Fortson for the 2023 season.

Explaining the ERFA Tender of Chiefs’ Jody Fortson

In order to retain an exclusive rights free agent, an NFL franchise must “extend a qualifying offer to the player” according to Pro Football Network. And by definition, a qualifying offer is “a one-year contract at the league minimum salary based on the player’s experience level.”

If they do that, said player will not be allowed to negotiate terms with another organization.

Now, if you’re wondering how Fortson and others became exclusive rights free agents, Pro Football Network explained that too, informing that an ERFA is “a player with just two or fewer accrued seasons and an expired contract.” By comparison, a restricted free agent has played three accrued seasons and an unrestricted free agent has four or more accrued seasons.

PFN writer Dallas Robinson continued: “To accrue a season, a player must have been on a team’s roster for six or more regular-season games during that year. However, the player does not need to be active for games to accrue a season. Players on the injured reserve and the physically unable to perform list also get credit toward an accrued season” — but practice squad members, or players on the non-football injury and commissioner’s exempt lists do not.

Fortson fits this criterion, so by extending him this qualifying offer, the Chiefs have locked him in for the 2023 campaign.

The KC playmaker is heading into his third accrued season with the Chiefs, although the undrafted prospect has been a part of the organization since 2019. In 19 appearances from 2021 through 2022, Fortson has caught 14 passes off 18 targets. Four of those receptions from Patrick Mahomes II have been touchdowns, and nine of them have been first downs.

He has fumbled once, and averages 11.1 yards per catch throughout his career. Fortson turned 27 in December and has logged 249 snaps on special teams over the past two years, compared to just 238 snaps on offense.

Chiefs QB Shane Buechele & OT Prince Tega Wanogho Are Exclusive Rights Free Agents

The remaining Chiefs ERFAs in 2023 are quarterback Shane Buechele and offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho. Both are expected to be tendered, as Fortson was.

Here are the remaining Kansas City free agents that are left unsigned heading into March 15 — the technical start of NFL free agency and the new league year.

Unrestricted Free Agents:

  • Orlando Brown Jr. (OT).
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR).
  • Frank Clark (DE).
  • Juan Thornhill (S).
  • Carlos Dunlap (DE).
  • Mecole Hardman (WR).
  • Derrick Nnadi (DT).
  • Khalen Saunders (DT).
  • Jerick McKinnon (RB).
  • Justin Watson (WR).
  • Nick Allegretti (IOL).
  • Ronald Jones II (RB).
  • Blake Bell (TE).
  • Michael Burton (FB).
  • Deon Bush (S).

The Chiefs do not have any “restricted free agents” this offseason, and the only player to agree to terms with another team was starting right tackle Andrew Wylie — who has decided to follow ex-KC offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to the Washington Commanders.

Brown is also expected to walk in free agency, as well as Hardman and Clark, and there’s a good chance the Chiefs could lose Thornhill too. At this stage, it feels like Smith-Schuster and McKinnon have been pegged as the two early priorities for new contracts with Kansas City, but it would be nice to re-sign either Saunders or Nnadi at D-tackle.

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