The Chiefs placed a waiver claim on a tight end earlier this week. Although the claim failed, it speaks volumes to the situation surrounding another Chiefs tight end currently on the roster.
The Chiefs’ 53-man roster is coming into focus as the team gets closer to the start of the regular season. They’ll play their third and final preseason game this Thursday against the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium. As the roster begins to take shape, more questions persist about returning tight end Blake Bell. What’s the story surrounding the veteran tight end?
Chiefs Tight End Looks Likely To Miss Extended Time In 2022
Blake Bell exited the Chiefs’ first preseason game with a non-contact injury. It came out later that he had suffered a hip injury and an “unusual one” at that. What does this mean? The team has been unusually quiet around the status of their returning tight end. Bell, who spent most of last season as the team’s primary blocking tight end behind Travis Kelce, figures to return to the same role again in 2022.
Joining him in the tight end group with Kelce are Noah Gray and Jody Fortson. Fortson had a stellar performance on Saturday, hauling in two touchdowns from Patrick Mahomes en route to a Chiefs victory over the Commanders. Other than Bell, no other tight end on the roster has faced concerning injuries thus far in training camp. Even still, the Chiefs placed a claim on Kendall Blanton earlier this week.
The Chiefs were another team to put in a waiver claim on new Commanders TE Kendall Blanton, who went to Washington due to higher waiver priority, per source. It was a near homecoming, as Blanton is from the Kansas City area and played his college ball at Missouri. — Field Yates (@FieldYates) August 22, 2022
Blanton, a starter in last year’s Super Bowl for the Rams, hit the waiver wire this week and plays the tight end position. Perhaps it’s notable that Blanton is from Kansas City and it would be seen as a homecoming for him to join the Chiefs. This could be a reason for the waiver claim by the team’s front office. Instead, however, it could be seen as an update on the Bell situation.
Why would the Chiefs put a claim in on Blanton if there wasn’t underlying concern about Bell missing substantial time this season? If Bell were, in fact, fine and slated to miss minimal time, it is unlikely that the Chiefs would look to add a fifth tight end to the roster.
Jody Fortson and Noah Gray are relatively secure in their roles on the team’s roster. Fortson is a solid receiving threat, especially in the red zone, and gives the offense an added dimension that they’ve lacked in recent years when it comes to two-tight end sets. Gray, similarly, fills a receiving tight end role akin to that of Travis Kelce.
Blanton on the other hand is a fairly solid blocker at the position and, although he’s caught some passes here and there, profiles much more like Blake Bell than the other two tight ends currently battling for a roster spot behind Travis Kelce. The fact that the Chiefs were interested in claiming Blanton at all could point to Bell missing time this season with his unusual hip injury.
Other Tight Ends For The Chiefs To Consider Before Week One
Blanton, although he was claimed by the Chiefs, is now suiting up for the Commanders. Washington owned a higher waiver priority. If Bell is indeed slated to miss extended time this season, even if it is just for a week or two, what other options for Kansas City look to as a fill-in for their run-blocking tight end role?
Demetrius Harris is currently a free agent after spending last season with the Arizona Cardinals. Harris, of course, started his NFL career with the Chiefs. He played his first five NFL seasons with the team before signing a free agent contract with the Browns following the 2018 NFL season. He could be a solid fill-in option for Bell since he already knows the offense and has filled that role once already in his career.
Jesse James started his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played there, alongside Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, for four seasons before hitting free agency. He doesn’t bring a lot to the receiving game but offers a strong veteran presence as a second linebacker. He could easily fill the Blake Bell role on offense, although it might be difficult to bring in a veteran without knowledge of the offense and expect them to perform very well in a new system.
Perhaps the easiest — and best — option for the Chiefs to consider is Noah Gray. Gray has yet to get an extended look on offense after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Gray, the current heir apparent to Kelce, profiles as a very similar tight end to Kelce. No, that isn’t to say that the second-year man is going to take off on a Hall of Fame pace. Instead, it’s just to say that Gray is a receiving threat who could prove suitable in the run-blocking game if needed. The absence of Bell could give the Chiefs a chance to showcase Gray in a larger role and see what he truly offers the team moving forward.
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