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Why a $200 million contract for Patrick Mahomes could be just around the corner

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Once the season concludes, the star Chiefs quarterback will be eligible for a contract extension — and NFL executives think the team will want to make a deal soon.

Divisional Round - Houston Texans v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In an ESPN In$ider article published on Tuesday, Jeremy Fowler examined the situation in which the Kansas City Chiefs and their quarterback Patrick Mahomes will find themselves after Kansas City’s season ends.

Still on his rookie contract, Mahomes is tied to the Chiefs through the 2020 season. But once the 2019 season concludes, he is eligible for a contract extension. Fowler — who interviewed many NFL executives for his article — says most believe the Chiefs will move to get Mahomes locked up during the coming offseason.

“Pay him this offseason and get it done with,” an NFC executive said. “Highest paid.” The only thing preventing that move would be team policy. Some teams simply don’t do contracts until a player has one left year on his deal. The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for that, and conventional teams are not likely to change their ways. Another AFC executive understands that philosophy because “too much can happen in that time,” such as injury or a change in team dynamics.

The Chiefs don’t appear to have such a hard-and-fast rule, people around the league say, which could help prevent a potential Mahomes holdout.

Any contract Mahomes signs is likely to be around $40 million per year. The team executives to whom Fowler spoke said they wouldn’t have any problem inking the Chiefs quarterback for that kind of money.

No NFL execs or sources who spoke with ESPN for this story have a problem going close to the $40 million threshold. In fact, one source says his NFL front office recently talked about Mahomes being worth $1 billion — and was only half-joking.

”I’m not sure if it’s $40 million as the number, but it will probably be close to that,” one AFC executive said. “It’s a given he will be the highest paid. If he’s doing, say, a four-year deal, $160 million, that might be a realistic spot.”

For the Chiefs, the worst-case scenario is that Mahomes will decide to blow the doors off the bank vault. If he follows his first season as a starter — in which he was named the NFL’s Most Valuable — with a Super Bowl victory, he will have the kind of leverage he would need to do just that.

One executive to whom Fowler spoke thinks such a thing could easily happen.

”If I were [the Chiefs], I would be as proactive as humanly possible,” the source said. “If Jared Goff can get no offset language in his entire contract after three years in the league, then this specific player has all the leverage. I think $40 million would be Mahomes selling himself short.”

But local observers of the situation might see it differently. Mahomes consistently carries himself as a team player — and to say that Kansas City has embraced him would be a substantial understatement. The track record of his agents Leigh Steinberg and Chris Cabott would not suggest that Mahomes would sign a team-friendly deal priced below the market — but on the other hand, it’s possible Mahomes might not want to hold the Chiefs over a barrel.

The Chiefs have other contract issues to solve, too. After the 2018 season, the team identified wide receiver Tyreek Hill and defensive tackle Chris Jones — like Mahomes, both coming off the third season of their rookie deals — as players they needed to sign to long-term deals. Only Hill has signed a contract extension. Whether the Chiefs will be able to come to terms with Jones is yet unknown.

One of the other significant problems will be the defensive secondary, since the only significant cornerbacks already under contract for 2020 are Charvarius Ward and Rashad Fenton; Kendall Fuller, Bashaud Breeland and Morris Claiborne will all be free agents.

Chiefs general manager Brett Veach has said that ever since Mahomes was drafted with the 10th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, the team has been planning for an extension to their star quarterback’s contract.

In just weeks, we could begin learning just how effective that planning has been.