As George Kittle and the San Francisco 49ers were working out a blockbuster deal to make Kittle the highest-paid tight end in NFL history, Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs were negotiating their own terms on a contract extension.
Kelce won’t exceed the market-resetting $75 million Kittle will garner, but he’s close. The four-year extension is worth $57.25 million with $28 million in guarantees, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. In comparison, Kittle reportedly received $40 million guaranteed for injury and $30 million guaranteed at signing. Kelce’s new deal will effectively keep him in Kansas City through the 2025 season.
Both Kittle and Kelce’s new contracts were expected before the start of the season. Kittle is arguably the best playmaker in San Francisco’s offense and stood firm on his desire to get top dollar. Kelce’s contributions to Kansas City’s offense are just as great, and he was set to hit free agency after the 2020 season. He’s coming off one of the most productive seasons in his seven-year career and led the offense with 1,229 yards and five touchdowns with a 71.3% catch rate.
What’s most interesting about Kelce’s extension, however, is what it does—or doesn’t immediately do—to the team’s salary cap. After winning its second Super Bowl in franchise history, Kansas City made sure it secured its best players. Kelce was obviously deserving of one of the wealthiest contracts at his position, but prior to reaching the deal, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and defensive end Chris Jones also negotiated their own contract extensions. Mahomes’ whopping 10-year deal was worth $503 million, and he’ll get $477 million in guarantee mechanisms. Jones received a four-year, $80 million extension with $37.626 million in full guarantees and a $60 million injury guarantee.
If there was ever a time to say, “The rich get richer,” it’s right now.
The Chiefs had precisely $171 million in salary-cap space at the end of March. The cap gymnastics that was performed is more than impressive. Kelce’s deal is similar to Jones’, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported. He won’t receive any new money in 2020 but a sizable guaranteed roster bonus is due early next year. It makes Kelce’s $11,218,400 cap hit manageable; heck, it didn’t change.
Kansas City was able to do a number of things with these respective deals. It kept what worked extremely well in place; there was no question whether or not the Chiefs would pay Mahomes, it was only about how much. The Chiefs also paid playmakers what they’re worth: Jones got his big extension after his performance throughout the season and in the Super Bowl helped cement him as a premier talent in the league. But, most importantly, Kansas City instilled confidence in its ability to continue to contend for championships with this roster.
What will come of it after what could be a unique 2020 season and an unpredictable salary-cap in 2021, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be anyone’s guess. Early reports have suggested that the 2021 salary cap will come in around $175 million which Kansas City is now well over; before Kelce’s deal, the Chiefs were calculated to be $25.7 million over the projected 2021 salary cap. But that’s a problem to be solved at another time, as Kansas City focuses all of its efforts to win for the foreseeable future with this expensive, talented roster.