The Kansas City Chiefs today signed tight end Travis Kelce to a five-year extension worth $46 million, with $20.5 million in guarantees. The deal makes Kelce the second highest paid tight end in the NFL in terms of yearly average, behind only Seattle's Jimmy Graham.
Kelce this season caught 72 passes for 875 yards and 5 TDs. In 2014, he caught 67 passes for 862 yards and 5 TDs. Those are top-tier numbers for a 26-year-old, which is why he was rewarded with a top-tier extension.
Kelce's new deal now makes Martellus Bennett the 13th highest paid tight end in the NFL, which surely doesn't sit well with the Bears' powder-keg pass catcher.
As a free agent in 2013, Bennett signed a four-year, $20.5 million contract, with $5.215 million guaranteed. After catching 90 passes for 916 yards and 6 TDs in 2014, he came into last season expecting a pay raise. That never materialized, which didn't sit well with Bennett, who sat out every single voluntary activity during the off-season, refusing to show up until his paycheck was compromised.
Bennett then underperformed during the regular season, catching just 53 passes for 439 yards and 3 TDs. After blowing up during practice in Week 12, Bennett suddenly had a rib injury that didn't allow him to play against the Packers that week. Not only did Bennett not travel with the team to Green Bay, he admitted to not even watching the game on TV. Two weeks later, he was sent home for good.
In terms of cap hit, Bennett will be the 12th highest paid tight end in the league next year. For a player who went out of his way to show his unhappiness last year, which carried over to the game field and compromised the offense, imagine what how he'll react when he finds out how much money the Chiefs doled out to Kelce.
The Kelce deal will impact Bennett and the Bears in one of two ways.
First option: the Bears will realize that Bennett is underpaid and will acquiesce to his desire for a pay raise.
Second option: the team will ask Bennett to honor his current deal, which will again lead to a disgruntled player offering very little on and off the field.
The second scenario appears most likely, which is why the Kelce deal could ultimately lead to Bennett's full-time departure from Chicago via trade.
Another big deal was finalized today: The Eagles gave OT Lane Johnson a five-year extension worth up to $63 million, with $35.5 million guaranteed.
This is an important contract, as it sets a base line for future negotiations between the Bears and Kyle Long.
Long and Lane are both first-round offensive tackles from the 2013 draft. Both players will be entering the final year of their rookie deals. Yet the biggest difference is that Long has three Pro Bowls under his belt, while Johnson has never been named to the Pro Bowl.
If Long were to hit free agency, he would stand to make more than Johnson, who will earn roughly $12.6 million per season.
The Johnson deal will very likely give GM Ryan Pace the impetus to sign Long this off-season, in leau of allowing him to test the open market, where one team will surely dump loads of cash in his lap.
The Bears will have at least $60 million in cap space, and potentially as much as $70 million, this upcoming off-season. Alshon Jeffery is the only must-sign free agent, meaning there will be plenty of cash left over to lock down Long for the long-term.
Due to the Johnson deal, don't be suprised if the Bears extend Long for five more years at roughly $13 million per season at some point in the near future.