We all knew it was coming but it was just a matter of when. This week we found out without a hint on a casual Tuesday just after lunch. July 6th, 2020 will not only go down in Kansas City Chiefs history, but will go down in sports history as the day Patrick Mahomes landed the largest contract of all time for any major professional sports.
The deal ended up being a ten year extension on top of the two years that Mahomes had left on his current rookie contract. The money amount was massive, and in some ways fittingly resembled a few baseball contracts we have seen in recent years from players like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Never before in the sport of football have we seen anything even remotely close to this deal. Chiefs General Manager Brett Veach described in an interview the deal being “years in the making”. This makes sense, even back to the 2017 NFL Draft when many considered Mahomes to be nothing more than a reckless, big armed gun singer. However, Andy Reid and Brett Veach saw more. What they saw was a chance to coach and draft maybe the greatest talent the league has ever seen. So far Mahomes has lived up to the expectations.
From the wild improvisation…
To pin point accuracy and knowledge of the playbook…
And arm strength like the league has never seen before, the Chiefs didn’t really have many options when it came to negotiations, paying a player who has a legitimate chance at being the greatest player of all time while also locking him up for over a decade is an investment that had to be made. It, however, did not come without criticism.
The obvious criticism that seems to be the main focal point is the massive amount of money that is on the line. The total deal could be worth around $503 million, leading some to call it a half-billion-dollar deal. While Mahomes could very well easily end up making every bit of the $503 million, the total amount of guaranteed money is $450 million. This money is on top of the two years remaining on his rookie deal which will total close to $27 million. Below is the year by year breakdown of the deal.
What is interesting about the deal is that while the base salary does grow every year, to eventually get to the massive $38 million by 2031, we see most of the money up until then being used as a roster bonus with incentives thrown in as well. As the base salary climbs the roster bonus gets smaller, this is an effort to lighten the load on the salary cap so the Chiefs can still afford to add talent around Mahomes. Many have pointed to the large contracts received by Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson as a reason why their teams have not been able to find Super Bowl success since signing the large deals, due to not being able to afford to keep the same level of talent on the field. While in some cases this is a true problem it is one that Brett Veach and Mahomes agent Leigh Steinberg worked to prevent in Kansas City. They prevented this by adding flexibility and years around the contract. This brings us to the next criticism of the contract, that being some don’t think the Chiefs will be willing to build around Mahomes given the large investment to keep him a Chief for the next decade. As long as Andy Reid and Brett Veach are around this won’t be the case.
Since his time started in Kansas City, Andy Reid has been able to find talent anywhere, and the trend didn’t change when Brett Veach became the General Manager in 2017. The Chiefs have dominated the mid-round of the NFL Draft since Reid has been in town. For example: Travis Kelce was a third-round pick, Tyreek Hill a fifth-round selection, Demarcus Robinson a fourth-round selection, Kareem Hunt a third-round pick, Derrick Nnadi a third-round pick, and Super Bowl contributors and future key players Khalen Saunders and Rashad Fenton in the third and sixth rounds respectively of the 2019 NFL Draft. This past draft we saw the Chiefs add Lucas Niang, L’Jarius Sneed, and Mike Danna in the middle rounds, all of who look to be key contributors in the near future, with Niang looking to be tasked with protecting Mahomes for the next several years. The Chiefs have also hit on a number of undrafted free agents, and under the radar pick-ups who played huge roles in bringing home the Lombardi trophy like Daniel Sorensen, Mike Pennel, Damien Williams, and Stefan Wisniewski.
General Manager Brett Veach has also proven time and time again, and once more by the re-signing of Patrick Mahomes, that he can get his man. We saw perfect examples of this last season with the sign and trade with the Seattle Seahawks to bring Frank Clark to town as well as going out and getting the team a new defensive face in Tyrann Mathieu.
With the Mahomes contract looking team-friendly for the first few years, they will still be able to pay Clark what he is owed and will also have a chance to resign Mathieu when his deal is up in a couple of seasons. Short term it gives them a shot at getting a deal done with Chris Jones to try to keep him in Kansas City or even start working on a contract extension with Travis Kelce to ensure that he will also be a Chief for the rest of his career. That’s where the beauty of the deal comes in. With such a long deal it makes it a lot more manageable to pay Mahomes while at the same time being able to take care of the talent around him. I fully expect we see the core structure of this deal to fluctuate many times before it’s all said and done and that comes down to one thing: trust. Trust in coaching, trust in management, and trust in ownership from Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, Brett Veach, and Clark Hunt. Mahomes sealed Reid’s legacy by winning Super Bowl 54, Brett Veach will undoubtedly get an extension soon for pulling off the deal with Mahomes, and Clark Hunt will have a chance to grow the Chiefs brand in a way we have never seen before. Reid’s whole time in Kansas City has been built off of trust, and this deal should be no different. When the time comes to resigning talent and bringing more talent in, Patrick Mahomes will have to trust management to re-work money around. The organization will also have to trust that he can live up to his end of the bargain. So far he hasn’t disappointed.