Chiefs, Gonzalez agree on 5-year contract extension

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Tony Gonzalez has agreed to a five-year contract extension with the Kansas City Chiefs that keeps him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL.

The eight-time Pro Bowler, just two touchdown catches short of the league record for his position, will receive about $17 million in guaranteed money, a person close to the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information.

Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson said the 30-year-old Gonzalez will remain the league’s top-paid tight end.

“And I think he deserves to be,” Peterson told the AP on Friday. “I personally think he’s the best tight end in the NFL today, and has been for many years.”

A 10-year veteran, Gonzalez enjoyed one of his best seasons while helping Kansas City to a 9-7 regular-season record and its first playoff appearance since 2003. Although hampered by a shoulder injury, he caught 73 passes for a team-high 900 yards, with five touchdowns. He also scored the Chiefs’ only TD in a 23-8 loss to Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs.

“This guy has become a complete player,” Peterson said. “People don’t appreciate his blocking ability, except for the running back and the guys who are running behind him. And he played hurt this year with a shoulder injury.”

Gonzalez ranks first on Kansas City’s career receiving list, with 721 catches for 8,710 yards. His eight Pro Bowl appearances are tied with Shannon Sharpe for the most by a tight end, and he is one of only two tight ends in NFL history with four consecutive seasons of 70 or more receptions. His 61 career touchdown catches are one behind Sharpe’s NFL record for tight ends.

An extremely hard worker who always stays late after practice to catch 100 passes, the durable Gonzalez has started in 142 of the Chiefs’ last 144 games. He’s also active in community and charity events.

Two years ago he wrote a book aimed in part at helping kids deal with bullies, a problem the 6-5, 250-pound Pro Bowler experienced while growing up in a tough neighborhood in Southern California.

“I think he deserved this contract,” said Peterson. “Was it more than I wanted to pay? Sure. It always is. But he is, in my opinion, the best tight end in pro football. This allows him to be compensated as he deserves. There have been some rookies who came in and got bigger signing bonuses, but put it all together, Tony’s been the highest-paid tight end in the NFL for several years, and this makes sure he will remain so.”

Getting Gonzalez’s contract out of the way also clears Peterson’s desk for other roster decisions. A big turnover in personnel, perhaps even a major overhaul, awaits Kansas City in the offseason.

Negotiations on a big pay raise could prove troublesome with running back Larry Johnson, who has broken the team rushing record two years in a row.

“We’ve just opened negotiations with most of our people, such as (linebacker) Kawika Mitchell, and some of the other guys whose contracts are going to be up,” Peterson said.

Free agency begins March 2.

“I said in training camp getting Tony’s contract done would be our No. 1 priority, because he was so deserving. Now we have some time,” Peterson said.

AP-ES-01-12-07 1539EST

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