We knew the numbers would be mind-blowing. We expected something that defied imagination. It was never a question of whether Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was worth the money or what place his new deal would hold in the universe of largest contracts ever. It was only a matter of when it would happen and how this transaction would impact this franchise's hopes of building a dynasty.
The new is that Mahomes and the Chiefs finalized a 10-year contract extension worth up to $503 million on Monday. The impact is that Mahomes can now say he's signed the largest deal ever given to any professional athlete, let alone one who toils in the National Football League. There are still plenty of details to be revealed and explored – the deal has $477 million in guarantee mechanisms that give Mahomes certain outs if the mechanisms aren't exercised – but make no mistake, this deal sends a clear message to everyone else in the sporting world. What we have to figure out now is how this affects the team going forward.
Every team in the NFL understands what happens when you have a young quarterback who blossoms into a star quickly. Those franchises commit themselves to doing everything possible to win while that signal-caller is still working on a franchise-friendly rookie deal. The team accepts that a huge payday is coming down the road at some point. It's merely a question of whether the franchise can win a championship before that gigantic bill comes due.
The Chiefs accomplished that goal in February, as they beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV and claimed their first world title in 50 years. They've also watched Mahomes win a league MVP award in his first season as a starter and immediately turn himself into the NFL's biggest star. The talk of a record contract, one worth as much as $50 million per year, began as soon as he hoisted that Lombardi Trophy in Miami. There were plenty of people who even wondered aloud if there was any amount Mahomes could receive that wouldn't feel like a low-ball arrangement.
The important question that didn't receive as much attention during that celebration was one the Chiefs have been tending to ever since: How do they keep the good times going? Getting Mahomes done this summer was a great start. A 12-year deal (two years from his rookie contract, plus the additional 10) is even better – along with a signing bonus of $10 million -- as it affords general manager Brett Veach more short-term flexibility as he manages a salary cap that isn't exactly brimming with open space. The next moves the Chiefs make will go a long way toward determining whether they actually do become dynastic.
Everyone knew Mahomes deserved a new deal because he's the best football player on the planet. Reaching an agreement on that extension also means Veach has the most critical cog in place for any kind of sustained championship run. For those who haven't been paying attention, the Chiefs have other matters they will have to address in order to remain in championship contention. As great as Mahomes is, he can't win a title all by himself.
The announcement of this extension now allows Veach to focus on Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones. The Chiefs and Jones haven't had much dialogue on a new deal, largely because the team has no idea how the 2021 salary cap will be affected by the fallout from COVID-19. If the NFL is holding games without fans in the stands, which is a real possibility, then the projected salary cap will take a huge hit. Our own NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport already has reported that the 2021 cap could be $40 million lower than this year's total of $198.2 million (the Chiefs, by the way, already have financial commitments of nearly $176 million for 2021).
The Chiefs gave Jones the franchise tag in March, which guarantees him $16.1 million for this season. He wants a long-term deal that hovers around a $21 million average salary and $60 million in guaranteed money. Both sides have until July 15 to hash this out, or the ability to negotiate a new deal vanishes for this year. Jones already has intimated that he will hold out if he doesn't receive a satisfactory package.
It's not worth getting too deep into the weeds with this situation -- there's already been plenty written about it -- but it will be interesting to see if the new Mahomes deal gives Veach a little more flexibility and creativity in addressing Jones. That expected decrease in the cap isn't just a serious roadblock when it comes to Jones. The Chiefs have two other starters on defense who will be free agents after this season (cornerback Bashaud Breeland and linebacker Damien Wilson) and a boatload of high-priced stars who will be in the final years of their contracts in 2021 (safety Tyrann Mathieu, tight end Travis Kelce and offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz). In other words, the Chiefs couldn't afford to spend too much time haggling over whatever mountains of cash they were sending to Mahomes.
The true test of this team's ability to dominate for the next few years will be how Veach navigates that financial landscape. He's already grappling with how to handle Jones, an elite talent who made a handful of masterful defensive plays that helped the Chiefs win that Super Bowl. A drastically lower cap would create even tougher decisions, as Kansas City is paying top dollar for several of its biggest names. These are the kinds of challenges that come with winning a championship, and with going all-in on "running it back."
Remember -- there is a significant reason why no team has repeated as Super Bowl champions since New England did it in 2004. It's not just about locking in a young quarterback who's starting to harness his vast potential. It's about drafting well, committing money to the right core players and making the tough calls on those valuable veterans you eventually have to lose to stay under the cap. The Patriots have won six championships over 20 seasons, largely because they were able to replace stars like Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour and Chandler Jones when those players still had plenty of good football left in them.
So while the Chiefs fans can exult in the notion that Mahomes is tied to the club until 2031, let's all admit the obvious: It's impossible to think he'll ever wear anything but a Chiefs uniform during his career. He's only started 38 games and he already looks like a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Yes, the money given to Mahomes makes for a great headline. His willingness to negotiate a deal that gives his general manager a few more options in the budget makes for an even better one.