Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Chiefs lock up centerpiece of franchise for years to come

During the offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs fulfilled their priority in locking up their Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes by signing him to a ten-year, $450 million extension – a deal that will keep the Chiefs competing for a long time, in hopes of becoming the NFL’s next dynasty.

“Obviously, I’m very excited, very happy,” Mahomes told CBS sports in late July. “Having security for my family and security for future generations, but at the same time I’m happy our franchise is able to sign guys like Chris Jones and sign guys that were able to help me build this team together.”

Coming into the offseason, many questioned whether Kansas City would be able to both pay Mahomes and keep defensive tackle Chris Jones on the roster, due to financial reasons. Many thought there were only two outcomes for Jones: a franchise tag or a trade for draft capital. Then, on July 14, Jones signed a four-year contract worth up to $85 million, with $60 million guarenteed. Mahomes’ selflessness – evident in his team-friendly contract – gave the Chiefs the chance to keep both game changers on the roster for the foreseeable future. 

When people look at Mahomes’ contract, they tend to see the total number and think the contract is too expensive and not team-friendly. However, if you look closer at the numbers, both of these assumptions are wrong. The contract is listed as a 12-year extension worth up to $503 million, but that number can only be reached if Mahomes hit on all his incentives. The incentives are simple. Each year, starting in 2022, Mahomes can earn $1.25 million if the Chiefs reach the Super Bowl and an additional $1.25 million if he is named NFL MVP, for a maximum of $2.5 million per year in incentives. The performance necessary to earn the maximum $503 million is unrealistic for anyone, even Patrick Mahomes, who is arguably the most talented quarterback of all time. The contract is basically a 12-year, $477 million base value.

Mahomes still has two years left on his rookie deal, and he has given the Chiefs flexibility playing through that contract. The best quarterback in the league will make a measly $5 million this year, which is 31st among quarterbacks in the league. There are backup quarterbacks without a single playoff win that will have higher contracts than Mahomes in 2020.  Mahomes will then play on his fifth-year option in the 2021 season, where he’ll receive $24 million, which is still a bargain for the Chiefs. 

In the first year of the ten-year extension, which is the 2022 season, Mahomes is due $31.5 million. This number is still less than that of Kirk Cousins ($45 million), Matt Ryan ($41.5 million), Aaron Rodgers ($39.9 million), Russell Wilson ($37 million) and Ryan Tannehill ($34 million). In 2023, Mahomes will be the highest paid quarterback in the league, earning $42.5 million, but only $3 million more than Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, and $6 million more than Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Looking at the bigger picture, $42.5 million is still not a bad number for a player who makes your team a threat every year. 

The back-heavy design of Mahomes’ deal is built to keep the core of the Chiefs together for the foreseeable future, enabling the team to extend the contracts of key players. 

In addition to Chris Jone, superstar tight end Travis Kelce was also gifted with a payday from the Chiefs. Kelce had two years left on his deal, but signed a four-year, $57 million extension. Mahomes’ go-to weapon will finish his career fighting for his right to party on Sundays with the Kansas City Chiefs.  

Kelce is a monumental piece for Mahomes. During the Chiefs’ thrilling comeback win against the Houston Texans in the Division Round of the 2019 playoffs, Kelce caught 10 passes for 134 yards and three touchdowns. Following their new contracts, Mahomes will play with Kelce, widely regarded as one of the best tight ends in the league, for the next six years.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill is only signed through 2023, and the Chiefs’ best interest may be to move on from Hill after that season and see if Mecole Hardman can take the next step and develop into a star wideout. 

Mahomes’ 2024 season salary drops to $39.9 million. What some might not realize is that Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Harrison Butker, and newly drafted offensive lineman Lucas Niang are under contract for that season. The Chiefs will need to sign wisely and draft well, so they can have a number of players on cheap rookie deals. Mahomes will be paid $41.9 million in both 2025 and 2026.

For Chiefs fans, the 2027 season will be full of unfamiliar names. 

As of now, Mahomes is the only player on contract for the Chiefs that year, and he is due $59 million. Kansas City will probably build their team with an abundance of draft picks and cheap free agents who are looking for a ring. As troubling as things may look for the Chiefs in 2027 from an outside perspective, that $59 million gives the team an opportunity to restructure Mahomes deal to fit some players into the payroll. Mahomes will earn $44.5 million in 2028, $44.9 million in 2029, $50.5 million in 2030 and $52.5 million in 2031.

The future is exciting for Chiefs fans, whose team could be hoisting multiple Lombardi Trophies down the road.  

The Chiefs kick off the 2020 NFL season on Sept. 10 at home against the Houston Texans.

laldpy@mail.umkc.edu

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