As Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs near dynasty status, here’s how K.C. has utilized the QB’s $450M bargain contract
By the end of the 2023 NFL offseason, Patrick Mahomes could be just the ninth highest-paid quarterback by annual average. By the end of the 2024 offseason, Mahomes could slip out of the top 10.
That would be absurd given the level of Mahomes as a quarterback and what he has achieved and can still achieve in his career. But it’s possible given the state of the QB market and the nature of his 10-year, $450 million contract extension he signed in 2020 with the Kansas City Chiefs.
As Sportzshala Sports’ Charles Robinson pointed out earlier this month, the upcoming contract renewals of Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow and Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert could push Mahomes off the QB roster if anyone- some of them sign deals worth more than $46 million a year. Trevor Lawrence of the Jacksonville Jaguars could also be renewed after next season, and who knows how much the Miami Dolphins will pay Tua Tagovailoa.
Mahomes is well above the top quarterback since becoming a full-time starter in 2018. ranked first among 60 qualified passers in expected points added per game and success rate. Mahomes also has more passing yards than Tom Brady, more passing touchdowns than Aaron Rodgers, and oddly enough, he has the same yards per completion as Jimmy Garoppolo.
Last season Mahomes led by 0.056 EPA per game. over the next best passer, Hurts, who is almost as wide as the gap between Hurts and sixth quarterback, Ryan Tannehill of Tennessee. Mahomes also added the most wins over substitutions of any quarterback last season. Focus on professional football.
In 2022, Tannehill had the highest cap of any quarterback at $38.6 million. Mahomes was No. 2 with approximately $35.8 million.
Despite being clearly the best quarterback in the NFL, Mahomes will most likely never become the highest paid player in his position. Even next season, with Mahomes’ salary cap rising more than 20 percent to $46.79 million, he will still be third behind Deshawn Watson and Dak Prescott and could drop even lower if the aforementioned names sign bigger deals.
This situation rivals the pay cut Brady signed with the New England Patriots during their 20-year dynasty. Brady never ranked in the top five in QB salaries during the seasons the Patriots reached the Super Bowl, according to overthecap.com, and that helped New England win six rings from 2001 to 2018.
And like the Patriots, the Chiefs are benefiting from Mahomes’ contract by keeping the majority. their best full-time players by finding quality but inexpensive veterans in the right positions and drawing exceptionally well.
The Mahomes deal allowed the Chiefs to spend and choose wisely
With the exception of Tyreke Hill, who was traded by the Chiefs for a generous number of draft picks, Kansas City blocked their players before the Mahomes deal took away most of the Chiefs’ salary cap. Tight end Travis Kelsey and defensive tackle Chris Jones were top players as both re-signed the same month that Mahomes got his big extension, five months after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers. “. Both have played a huge role in bringing the Chiefs back to the title game this season, with Kelsey second in touchdown receptions in the postseason.
To fill in the rest of the gaps, the Chiefs signed or traded powerful players at reasonable prices. Running back Jeric McKinnon joined KC in 2021 and finished second on the team with 10 touchdowns in 2022. Receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdez-Scantling signed short-term contracts totaling just $8.7 million in 2022, according to overthecap.com. Kansas City also traded the often-injured but extremely talented former wide opener Kadarius Toni, who is still on a rookie contract. Combined, the three threw seven touchdowns in the regular season and 24 receptions for 261 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs.
The Chiefs have also been incredibly well drafted since Mahomes signed his contract. Kansas City added linebacker Willie Gaye and defenseman L’Jarius Sneed in 2020, then linebacker Nick Bolton and offensive linemen Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith in 2021. The Chiefs used part of the catch from the Tyreke Hill deal to find a trade for quarterback Trent McDuffie. and drafted pass rusher George Karlaftis, wide receiver Sky Moore and seventh-rounders as guard Jaylen Watson and running back Isaiah Pacheco in 2022. Moore and Pacheco each scored in a Super Bowl win over the Eagles.
The executives were lucky Mahomes made the deal
This does not disprove the rookie-defender contracts theory. Henry Bushnell and Jeff Eisenberg of Sportzshala Sports did it in 2021. But what the Chiefs did with Mahomes is a rudimentary blueprint for how other teams with talented quarterbacks should try to renew their contract.
There are also alternatives. The Eagles just played in their second Super Bowl since the 2017 season with another rookie-signed quarterback. They reinvented themselves thanks to GM Howie Roseman’s skilful roster building and baiting Carson Wentz soon after realizing he wasn’t worth his renewal. The Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have more or less bought their Super Bowl rings, with potential long-term consequences.
But it’s an unavoidable fact that the Chiefs are in the position they are in because they built a roster around a quarterback who is at the top of his game but doesn’t get paid as such. Mahomes is good enough to cost as much as someone at the top of the QB market. And unlike Brady, Mahomes signed a long-term contract rather than a shorter one, which ensured his financial future – at least until 2025, when all guaranteed money ran out – and gave the Chiefs the flexibility to win as many Super Bowls as possible.
When Mahomes’ cap soars to $59.95 million in 2027, there will be a payoff for the Chiefs. There’s a chance that Mahomes’ salary in 2027 – if he’s still in this deal – is still a bargain given the trajectory of the QB market. What’s more: This year’s salary cap is likely to be much higher than the $224.8 million in 2023.
So no matter how it’s analyzed, the Chiefs have arguably the best quarterback of all time with the best contract of all time. And that leaves their window wide open to the future.