Kansas City Chiefs: Does Andy Reid not care about his backup tight end?

KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 26: Tight end Demetrius Harris
KANSAS CITY, MO - NOVEMBER 26: Tight end Demetrius Harris /
ArmchairAddict1 /

One of the positions that the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t address this offseason was the number two tight end position, but Andy Reid may not be concerned.

The Kansas City Chiefs entered this offseason with most of their primary needs on the defensive side of the ball. As I addressed last week, their defense received a total makeover and time will tell if it will be improved enough to help the Chiefs win in the playoffs this season.

On the offensive side of the ball there were only a handful of needs, but one of them that I was most interested in was at the No. 2 tight end spot. The Chiefs haven’t had a lot of production out of that spot in recent years and with the departure of Demetrius Harris, the door was wide open for the Chiefs to finally upgrade the position. Much to my disappointment, that hasn’t happened to date.

Currently, the Chiefs have five tight ends on the roster behind starter Travis Kelce. Those players are: Blake Bell, Deon Yelder, David Wells, Nick Keizer, and Jody Fortson. Of those five players, the only one with any kind of NFL résumé is Blake Bell who was a fourth round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 and is now on his fourth team in five seasons. In his four previous seasons he has totaled all of 30 career catches. The Chiefs signed Bell to a one-year deal worth only $735K this offseason. The other four players I listed are all guys who went undrafted and have yet to make a single catch in the NFL. Simply put, the Chiefs have almost nothing invested in the number two tight end spot.

I personally find that concerning but there is a chance that head coach Andy Reid may not feel the same way. I went back and looked at Reid’s 20-year head coaching career and specifically looked at the production of the backup tight end during that span. The results were, shall we say, underwhelming to say the least. It turns out the production that Demetrius Harris has had over the last four years is pretty much par for the course for a second tight end in Reid’s offense. Over his two decades as a head coach, Reid’s offense has provided the following average totals for a second tight end:

  • 15.3 receptions
  • 157.2 yards
  • 1.4 touchdowns

That’s their average production for the entire season. While I’m underwhelmed by the idea of Blake Bell and Deon Yelder as the backup tight ends, it’s certainly possible that one of them could contribute 15 catches and 150 yards over the course of the season. That’s not exactly a high bar to hit. In fact, in 25 percent of Reid’s seasons as a head coach, his number two tight end didn’t even crack double digit receptions for the year and Reid has never had his second tight end top 30 receptions in a season.

Reid has pretty much always had a dependable starting tight end that was a key part of the offense, a streak that’s included guys like Chad Lewis, LJ Smith, Brent Celek, and now Travis Kelce. The second tight end has only really been addressed when his team was passing the baton of feature tight end on to the next guy. Towards the end of Chad Lewis‘ career, the Eagles drafted LJ Smith, and for two seasons he and Lewis both had reception totals in the upper 20s/lower 30s. However, once Smith became the primary guy, the second tight end was a non factor again.

The same thing happened as Brent Celek developed and replaced Smith. Those “transition” seasons have really been the only time there has been two tight ends with similar production to speak of. In those situations, neither guy topped 40 receptions in a season. There hasn’t been a single time in 20 years as a head coach where Reid had a star tight end that put up big numbers and a second tight end that was any sort of consistent weapon. It just hasn’t happened.

In Celek’s prime his back up was Clay Harbor. In Smith’s best years, he was backed up by guys like Matt Schobel and Stephen Spach. For Lewis, it was guys like Jeff Thomason, Tony Stewart, and Luther Broughton. When you look at those names, suddenly guys like Demetrius Harris, Blake Bell and Deon Yelder fit right in.

Now, the Chiefs did reportedly have interest in Ben Watson this offseason and temporarily kicked the tires on veteran John Phillips. So there is reason to believe that they are still actively looking to upgrade the position. However, their lack of serious investment in the position and 20 years of coaching history show that the second tight end spot simply isn’t a huge priority for a team led by Andy Reid. Yes, I would have liked to see them add a more proven weapon at that spot. Yes, I am terrified of what will happen if Travis Kelce would have to miss any amount of time this coming season. The Chiefs and  Reid simply have decided that other spots were a higher priority.

It will be interesting to see if the Chiefs look to snatch up a more proven tight end when roster cuts eventually start happening. Then again, do you need to bring in someone and have them try to learn Reid’s complex offense last minute if all you expect from them all season is 15 catches for 150 yards and one touchdown? Surely Blake Bell can give them that. Right?

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So what do you think Chiefs fans? Are you like me and see the second tight end spot as one of the weakest spots on the roster or do you look at Reid’s history of not really needing a second tight end to produce and prefer that the Chiefs focus their attention and resources on upgrading other spots? I look forward to seeing what you think in the comments below.