Travis Kelce’s Skills on NFL Field & Personality Off It Has Made Him Major Star

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Travis Kelce hasn’t been in the headlines much for football recently. Kelce hasn’t been drawing much negative attention. The Kansas City tight end has been swept up in the news for dating pop megastar Taylor Swift.

However, in early May, Kelce’s career achievements were recognized. He signed a new contract with the Chiefs to put him on $17 million fully guaranteed this season and $17.25 in 2025. While there isn’t any guarantee that Kelce will play beyond next season, the Chiefs star will likely be around for at least the next two seasons.

Kelce has ridden a wave of differing opinions on how tight ends are viewed in NFL offenses. During the early days of the NFL and up until the early 2000s, pass-catching tight ends were basically non-existent. There were a few who popped up now and then. However, players like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates changed how people thought about the game.

Kelce’s Inconsistent College Career Threatened Earnings

Kelce came into the NFL after playing tight end for the University of Cincinnati in College. It would have been hard to anticipate Kelce becoming one of the NFL’s all-time greats after college. He was suspended during his sophomore year for marijuana use.

By the time Kelce was a senior, he had become a productive member of the Bearcats’ offense. He finished with a career-high 45 catches and 722 yards with eight touchdowns during his final season. Kelce became a third-round pick and ended up earning $1.1 million dollars during his rookie season.

Chiefs’ Offense Propels Kelce to the Top

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Staying in the NFL for any length of time requires players to work hard to stay on top. With Andy Reid as coach, Kansas City’s offense found the best way to utilize Kelce. He developed good chemistry with quarterback Alex Smith and later Patrick Mahomes as the team rose from also-ran to perennial Super Bowl contender.

As Kelce’s production exploded, so did his salary. He went from not catching any passes his first season to going over 1,000 yards during the 2016 season. The Chiefs rewarded Kelce with his first big contract in 2016.

Kelce made $10,646,000 dollars that season, according to Sportrac. While the number declined on that contract to around $8 or $9 million, Kelce’s continued production and the team’s success made it impossible for him to stay there. Kelece finished with 1,000 yards or more in every season from 2016 to 2022.

Kansas City has played in four Super Bowls since Kelce arrived and won three others. He has 11,328 career receiver yards. Before reupping with his new deal, Kelce had brought in $10 million or more dollars over the past three seasons.

During the 2023 season, when the Chiefs again won another Super Bowl, Kelce earned $12 million. At the end of Kelce’s new deal, he will have made over $111 million dollars during his career.

Tight End Pay in the NFL Has Skyrocketed

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Most NFL offenses these days need a strong pass-catch tight end to stretch out defenses. While Kelce is now the highest-paid tight end in the league, the gap between him and the other top-paid player at his position isn’t very much. New York Giants tight end Darren Waller is second on the list at $17 million a year. The Giants were disappointed with Waller’s production last season. He was a shell of the player he was in Las Vegas.

Here’s a look at the top four tight ends in total of three-year annual percentage yield:

While the NFL contracts look gaudy on paper, many people forget that those numbers aren’t always guaranteed. Unlike Major League Baseball, the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Association doesn’t include fully guaranteed contracts.

Here’s a look at which tight ends have the most guaranteed money in their deals. The report from Kelce’s deal is that the second season isn’t guaranteed fully.

Tony Gonzalez Helped Changed the Game

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Another former Kansas City Chiefs standout, Tony Gonzalez, helped blaze the path for Kelce. Gonzalez was a multi-sport athlete at the University of California. He played both football and basketball for the Golden Bears. When Gonzalez came into the NFL, tight ends still had the reputation as being big bruisers who mostly help move in the run game. While some tight ends did excel at catching passes, that was mostly looked at like a bonus.

Gonzalez, however, became invaluable in the passing game with his athleticism and his skills to be able to adjust to the pass in the air. Gonzalez, who would ultimately land in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, finished as a six-time, first team All-Pro player.

He led the league in receptions in 2004 and had more than 15,000 receiving yards in his career. Gonzalez played with the Chiefs from 1997 to 2008 and with the Falcons from 2009 to 2013.

According to Overthecap.com, Gonzalez only made more than $1 million just once in his first five seasons. Starting in 2002, Gonzalez’s salary took a dramatic leap from $945,000 to $6.75 million. It remained high for the rest of his career, peaking at $11 million in 2007.

Over the duration of his career, Gonzalez made $74.29 million dollars.

Personality to Profits

Kelce is well-known off the football field as well. He does a podcast with his brother, Jason, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelce also had a reputation for having a fun-loving personality.

That has become more common with tight ends. Former New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers standout Rob Gronkowski was also known for his outsized personality. Gronkowski and Kelce have also made a lot of money off the field with sponsorships due to their willingness to be the pitchman for a variety of companies.

Reportedly, Kelce makes around $5 million a year in endorsements. There is a lot of money flying around in Kelce’s life. His girlfriend reportedly makes around $90 to $150 million a year, depending on different sources. For a position that used to toil mostly in the background, Kelce has brought things to the forefront.