In a wide-ranging profile by Vanity Fair, Kelce said, “My managers and agents love to tell me how underpaid I am.”
Last offseason, he watched teammate Tyreek Hill force his way out of Kansas City with his contract demands. The star wide receiver was traded to the Miami Dolphins and signed a four-year, $120 million extension, including $72.2 million guaranteed.
“When I saw Tyreek go and get 30 [million] a year, in the back of my head, I was like, man, that’s two to three times what I’m making right now,” he told Vanity Fair. “I’m like, the free market looks like fun until you go somewhere, and you don’t win. I love winning. I love the situation I’m in.”
The Chiefs have won two of the past four Super Bowls, including earlier this year when they defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl LVII.
Kelce, 33, is scheduled to make a base salary of $11.25 million this season, ranked 52nd among NFL players, according to the Roster Management System. He is under contract through the 2025 season and his average annual salary of $14,312,500 ranks third among tight ends, behind the San Francisco 49ers‘ George Kittle ($15 million) and the New York Giants‘ Darren Waller ($17 million).
It can be argued that Kelce’s importance to the Chiefs transcends the tight end position. He has posted seven straight seasons of more than 1,000 yards — a record for NFL tight ends — and last season led the Chiefs in both receptions (110) and receiving yards (1,338).
As such, he admits he does think about his contract situation.
“You see how much more money you could be making and, yeah, it hits you in the gut a little bit. It makes you think you’re being taken advantage of,” Kelce told Vanity Fair. “I don’t know if I really pressed the gas if I would get what I’m quote-unquote worth. But I know I enjoy coming to that building every single day.”
Kelce also could just be following the example set by star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who will make a base salary of $5.5 million this season, according to the Roster Management System. The two-time MVP (and two-time Super Bowl MVP) has an average annual salary of $45 million, which ranks seventh among quarterbacks.