The legal tampering period and open negotiation window during the early stages of NFL free agency is intended for unrestricted free agents to begin contacting teams and iron out potential deals with them.
With that said, restricted and exclusive rights free agent news is also an element of the offseason process. Teams have until the new league year begins on March 15 at 4:00 p.m. ET to extend qualifying offers to their RFAs and ERFAs, and the Kansas City Chiefs are getting out ahead of that cutoff with one of their notable tight ends.
Per James Palmer of NFL Network, Kansas City has tendered Jody Fortson as an ERFA:
In the NFL, designated ERFAs are players with fewer than three accrued seasons but their contracts with their respective teams must also be expiring.
Fortson, who has been with the Chiefs for multiple years now but has yet to cross that accrued campaign mark, is one of the team’s three 2023 ERFAs.
He joined quarterback Shane Buechele and offensive tackle Prince Tega Wanogho on that list. Fortson will make a minimum salary on the ERFA tender for the upcoming season assuming he remains with the team. In 19 career regular-season games as a Chief, Fortson has been targeted 18 times and recorded 14 receptions for 155 yards and four touchdowns.
The 2022-23 season was his most successful, as he set career-best marks across the board in volume stats and had three games with multiple receptions.
Injuries, though, as they have in recent years, limited Fortson’s playing time and subsequent production.
The Chiefs are fond of their 13-personnel (one running back with three tight ends on the field) looks, and Fortson has played a role in that development. His improvement as a blocker and his intriguing athletic profile make him a threat when on the field.
Fortson played 184 offensive snaps for the Chiefs in 2022, which amounted to 21% of available reps. He was also on the field for a career-high 181 special teams snaps — 51% of available playing time.
While Fortson is a training camp and preseason favorite, high-level production has yet to manifest itself in a major way during the regular season.
Noah Gray emerged as the better tight end No. 2 behind Travis Kelce this past season, and it’s possible that the Chiefs search for more depth in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Bringing back Fortson was a no-brainer type of decision due to the price point and his familiarity with the team.
However, and it also doesn’t limit Kansas City from doing anything else at tight end moving forward if they so choose.