After the 2015 NFL season, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce signed a five-year, $46 million contract extension that made him one of the league’s highest-paid players at the position.
This month, after his fifth straight Pro Bowl appearance, Kelce got another raise: A five-year extension bumped up the annual value of his contract from $9.2 million to $14.3 million.
Ravens tight end Mark Andrews noticed, and how could he not? It has been a good month to be a top-tier tight end. San Francisco 49ers star George Kittle set the market with a five-year, $75 million extension, with $40 million guaranteed for injury. And that was with NFL-wide financial uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Obviously, you see it,” Andrews said in a video conference call Monday. “The tight end position is always pretty tight-knit, so you’re always rooting for other guys. Obviously, Kittle and Kelce are two of the best in the game. So whenever they do something, whenever something happens, you’re going to hear about that.”
Andrews’ agent certainly did. The Ravens’ top returning receiver, a Pro Bowl selection in only his second year, is eligible for a contract extension after this season. He has company there; left tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerback Marlon Humphrey, outside linebacker Matthew Judon and even quarterback Lamar Jackson could be in line for seismic extensions in 2021.
None of the Ravens’ established young stars, though, are primed for the kind of statistical leap Andrews could make this year. In 15 games last season, he had 64 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. Only Kelce, Kittle, the Oakland Raiders’ Darren Waller and Philadelphia Eagles’ Zach Ertz had more yardage among tight ends.
But that foursome averaged 907.3 offensive snaps last season. Andrews did his damage on 457 snaps, many of them in a run-dominant offense. Had he maintained his production over 907 snaps, Andrews would’ve finished the 2019 season with 1,690 receiving yards. Kittle set the single-season receiving record for a tight end in 2018 — with 1,377.
“If you look at what [tight ends] are doing — 1,300 yards the last couple years, and they’re blocking on top of that — so they’re having more yards than receivers, and they’re blocking, but they’re getting paid less than receivers,” Andrews said, who called the salary discrepancy a long-running problem. “So it’s good to kind of see that get re-upped. I was very happy for them.”