Every year, fans of the Kansas City Chiefs wonder if there’s going to be any real traction behind tight end Travis Kelce on the active roster. And year after year, fans get their hopes up for nothing. It’s an annual event to wonder if the Chiefs will ever upgrade at TE2 only to realize that the front office seems to have very little interest in an investment there.
The idea of upgrading at tight end has nothing at all to do with Kelce whatsoever. Kelce is a perennial All-Pro and future Hall of Fame and no one in Chiefs Kingdom would ever want to take anything away from his offensive load or amount of targets. Rather, there are circumstances in which a second tight end is or can be utilized, and the candidates there are often found lacking. And if Kelce were to ever be injured for any length of time, the idea of replacing him with any player whose been on the roster in recent years as a backup would be quite depressing.
While the Chiefs have much greater roster needs, there will undoubtedly be some who want to see the Chiefs make at least some new move at tight end to bolster the position for the rare moments when the offense utilizes a two tight end set or for greater security at the position. Unfortunately, at least in free agency, the Chiefs have next to nothing to offer someone who might be interested in the role as Kelce’s backup.
Earlier this week, the Jacksonville Jaguars released Tyler Eifert, who is now a free agent. Yet immediately any thought of the Chiefs signing him or even a player on the same tier should be disregarded. There’s simply nothing for someone like that in this current Chiefs offense.
The Chiefs have next to nothing to offer a backup tight end.
If you want to know why the Chiefs relied on the likes of Blake Bell last season and then went with internal options like Nick Keizer and Deon Yelder in 2020 is because there are no targets available for someone else, especially at tight end. Last year, Yelder had 11 targets and Keizer had 9 in 16 games. That’s an average of 1 target per game for the backup tight end. During the season before that, Bell had 15 targets and Yelder had 4, which is one less than the Chiefs had this season.
Even back when Demetrius Harris was the favored candidate behind Kelce, the Chiefs weren’t offering him much but at least it was twice that amount. Harris averaged 30 targets per season in K.C. during his final three seasons with the team. Since then, however, the Chiefs have been even stingier with their looks to TE2.
Ever since Kelce claimed his role as the starting tight end in 2014 (remember he missed his entire rookie year to injury), the best season by a backup tight end on the Chiefs roster is Anthony Fasano in 2014 when he had 25 catches for 226 yards and 4 touchdowns. If someone like Eifert or otherwise could be happy with those sorts of numbers on a team also chasing a ring, perhaps that could work. But even then, Fasano was on the receiving end of 36 touches in 2014, a number that makes those offered to Yelder and Keizer look silly.
Perhaps if the Chiefs were to sign someone known for their pass catching prowess (a la Eifert), then the offense would redirect some targets their way. However, it’s also important to remember that the Chiefs signed Ricky Seals-Jones last spring to a one-year deal and then completely ignored him for the vast majority of the season—to the tune of one target in two games. Seals-Jones initially looked like the sort of pass-catching backup who could make waves as an end zone outlet for Patrick Mahomes. Instead, he became a head-scratching inactive most weeks.
The bottom line is that backup tight end is a position with nothing to offer outsiders in the free agent market—at least other than being a part of a championship contender. For anyone joining the Chiefs in that capacity, it’s going to have to be enough rather than hoping the offense provides some juice as well. The reality is the Chiefs aren’t going to give anyone any real looks at tight end unless you’re Canton-bound.