Noah Gray has a big opportunity ahead in possible final season with Kansas City Chiefs

Noah Gray has settled in nicely to his TE2 role, but what is the outlook for Gray after his contract expires next spring?
Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl LVIII - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs / Ryan Kang/GettyImages

The Kansas City Chiefs made it clear in the 2021 NFL Draft that they had a role in mind for tight end Noah Gray. On May 1, 2021, general manager Brett Veach swung a trade with the Jets, moving up to select the former Duke Blue Devil in a deal that would also net the sixth-round pick that Veach used to draft Tennessee guard Trey Smith.

In his first three seasons as a pro, Gray has reeled in 63 passes for 640 yards and 4 touchdowns. The 6'3" 240 pound Gray has been a dependable, consistent option within the Chiefs offense, has stayed healthy his entire career, and has even taken on the role of "TE Sneak specialist " within the offense (though most Chiefs fans would prefer that play be put to rest).

As Gray enters the last year of his rookie contract, one has to wonder if there is a future for him in Kansas City beyond 2024, or if he might out-perform what the Chiefs expect from their reserve tight end.

Noah Gray has settled in nicely to his TE2 role, but what is the outlook for Gray after his contract expires next spring?

In Gray's favor, one must also consider his postseason experience. During the last three seasons, he has played in 10 playoff games and caught 13 balls on 19 targets. Gray has also amassed 477 postseason snaps, a remarkable accomplishment for a former Day 3 pick. Gray's playoff experience, being a part of a team that has gone 9-1 in that stretch, including two Super Bowl victories, cannot be ignored.

It is also to Gray's benefit that he has played behind a future Hall of Famer in Travis Kelce. No team will need to ask Gray why he couldn't overtake the starter in his four years as a Chief. What they will have in front of them is an experienced player entering his prime who has a little more tread on the tires than some of the other tight ends on the market. Furthermore, Gray's role could expand in 2024, as the Chiefs may be proactive in decreasing Kelce's workload in the offense in order to prolong the 34-year-old's career.

In another effort to mitigate wear and tear on Kelce, the Chiefs also spent a fourth-round pick on a tight end in this year's draft. Jared Wiley, a 6'6" rookie from TCU, has some promise and will be a contributing factor to this year's unit. However, Gray has a different skill set than Kelce and Wiley, who are both WR/TE hybrids. Gray is more of a fullback/TE hybrid and offers Patrick Mahomes a different wrinkle to the offense.

Another factor that will only help Gray is the fact that the upcoming free agent tight end class is so bland. Atlanta's Kyle Pitts was the only first-rounder in the 2021 class, but the Falcons picked up his fifth-year option in April. The list of soon-to-be free agent tight ends begins with players such as Pat Freiermuth, Tommy Tremble, and Tyler Conklin. Those three are current starters on their teams, and to be fair, each has been marginally more productive than Gray through their first three years in the league. But none is a household name, and Gray stacks up favorably with any of them in terms of skill and potential.

Gray has also outperformed most of the nine tight ends drafted ahead of him in 2021, ranking 4th among them in receptions and yards, and 5th in touchdowns, despite the presence of Kelce ahead of him on the depth chart.

Entering his contract year, Gray should be more motivated than ever to prove that he can be TE1 somewhere. Several NFL teams will have an opening at tight end in 2025. Odds are there will be a suitor who will have use for a player with Gray's resume by next spring; a 26-year-old player that has mentored under Kelce for four years and will likely have over 500 postseason snaps under his belt.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has proven before that he likes to put his young pass-catchers in a situation to earn a second contract and a chance to start for another team. Players such as Albert Wilson, Demetrius Harris, and Byron Pringle have benefitted from success within the Reid offense, and if Gray can capitalize in his contract year, he can earn a major payday next spring.