The week began like most others in the 2020 offseason — with continued uncertainty about Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones. But on Monday, we noticed something.
In March, Jones and 13 other NFL players had franchise or transition tags placed on them for the 2020 season.
Historically, about half of the players on whom franchise and transition tags are placed will end up signing a long-term deal with their teams. But at this moment — with just nine days remaining until the July 15 deadline — not a single tagged player has signed a long-term deal.
To be sure, some of these players could be signed to new contracts before the deadline; there have been lots of instances where it’s happened at the last minute. But the fact that no such contracts have been signed to this point strongly suggests that the uncertainty of the 2021 salary cap is playing a role in the way these situations have played out; it’s certainly not true that all of these teams have the same issues with their players that the Chiefs have with Jones.
But Monday’s biggest news turned out to be the blockbuster deal that Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed.
When Mahomes completes this contract extension, he will be the longest-tenured quarterback in Chiefs history, surpassing Len Dawson (14 seasons) and Mike Livingston (12 seasons). And he’ll have made a lot more money that either of them ever dreamed.
Adam Schefter first reported that the extension was worth $450 million, with $140 million in injury guarantees. Then NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport dropped an even bigger bombshell.
The #Chiefs and QB Patrick Mahomes have agreed to terms on a 10-year extension worth $503 million, sources tell me and @TomPelissero. He gets $477M in guarantee mechanisms and gives the ability for Mahomes to have outs if the guarantee mechanisms aren’t exercised. No trade clause— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 6, 2020
We also brought you the Twitter reaction reaction to the deal — and the team’s official statements from owner Clark Hunt, general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid.
Inside Patrick Mahomes’ contract negotiations — the two things he wanted from the Chiefs in a new deal
After we heard from Reid, Veach and Mahomes on Tuesday, the story of how the contract became a reality started coming into focus.
In March of 2019 — 16 months from the date of this writing, MLB outfielder Mike Trout signed a 12-year, $430 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Angels.
Chiefs director of football administration Brandt Tillis, who had heard the news, dropped by general manager Brett Veach’s office. He had something to share regarding the then-reigning AP NFL MVP — their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes.
“‘Pat’s going to be a baseball contract,’” Veach recalled Tillis saying. “‘That’s how good this kid’s going to be, and we need to start thinking like this.’”
The Chiefs were already framing their baseball contract before Mahomes won the Super Bowl. And the figure for that contract only went up and up and up — with a Pro Bowl MVP, a Super Bowl MVP and the first championship in 50 seasons for the Chiefs franchise.
Then we explored the Mahomes contract’s very unusual structure.
In the way we typically look at these contracts on salary-cap sites like Spotrac (from where many of these numbers come), this looks like a truly spectacular deal. The Chiefs could cut Mahomes after the 2022 season and be on the hook for just $4 million in dead money?
But that’s not how it’s going to work.
When Mahomes put pen to paper on Monday, his contract was fully guaranteed through the 2022 season. No matter what happens, the Chiefs are on the hook to pay him just over $63 million (the dead cap figure for 2020) over those three seasons. But — and this is a big “but” — if he is still on the roster on the third day of the 2021 league year (the middle of this coming March), his 2023 salary, roster bonus and workout bonus will also become guaranteed. This will increase 2021’s dead cap number from $59.6 million to $99.5 million!
With some tweaks along the way, this is the pattern the contract will follow. In essence, at the beginning of each league year, the Chiefs will have to decide if they want to guarantee Mahomes’ money for the coming season and the two seasons to follow. Each time, they’ll be making a risky decision — but that is the price they have to decided to pay in order to lock up their generational quarterback talent over such a long time.
On Wednesday — with the Mahomes contract in the books — we began exploring what the Chiefs’s next move could be. Our Kent Swanson weighed in.
Kelce seems like a very clear choice here — and an extension is deserved.
Beyond Mahomes, Kelce changes the game more than any other player on the offense; he is arguably the second-most valuable offensive player. While Tyreek Hill was out in the early part of the 2019 season, the Chiefs were still able to survive — and part of that was that teams were still focused on taking Kelce away.
Whether Hill is on the field or not, Kelce is crucial. He’s a tight end with the fluidity of a wide receiver — and a plus route runner, too. He is a unique, difficult matchup for defenses to handle. The way Andy Reid utilizes him — especially when he lines him up isolated on the back side of formations — creates additional problems for defenses.
Then Arrowhead Pride reader jared64804 took a somewhat longer-term view.
1. and 2. Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz
I am putting Fisher and Schwartz together because I think the decisions will be dependent on each other. I could see a the team bringing in a new tackle on one side in 2021, but I do not think they will replace both of them at once. Fisher and Schwartz each have two seasons left on their deals. Neither is overly cheap, but they also do not have ridiculously high cap numbers for their positions.
I think that to an extent, fans tend to overrate Fisher — mostly because how pitifully Cameron Erving played in Fisher’s absence. I think he is a good player — but not a great one. So I would be very wary of giving him a new contract that locks him up at a high salary into his mid 30s.
But Schwartz is still one of the best at his position; I think he could play at a very high level well into his 30s. But I also think he is pretty clearly starting to think about life after football. So I will not be surprised if he retires earlier than you might expect.. If the Chiefs believe in Lucas Niang, they would be wasting a year of cheap control if he is not a starting tackle in 2021.
By Thursday morning, John Dixon had accumulated some thoughts about what we had learned.
1. The Chiefs run a tight ship
We have noticed this before, but the lack of advance reporting on the contract extension for the team’s franchise player made it crystal clear: if the Chiefs don’t want reporters to know what’s going on, reporters will know nothing.
We now know that Mahomes and the team reached an agreement in principle on Saturday — and by Monday afternoon, not a single one of the league’s vaunted “insiders” had reported that the signing was imminent.
Even more interesting is that none of them appeared to know that the deal would be structured like no other — with a paltry signing bonus, an extra-long term and no tie to the salary cap. Even in the three hours between the contract announcement and the release of the its details, one national expert after another took to Twitter to explain the deal would have to include a tie to the cap. Even in a moment where many dozens of reporters were speed-dialing their contacts at One Arrowhead Drive, they were getting bupkis from the organization.
Then John speculated on what the deal could mean for the young quarterbacks who will pass through the Chiefs roster in the next decade.
When Mahomes starts carrying the cap hit of a franchise quarterback, the Chiefs will have to find ways to maximize their salary cap dollars; it’s not likely they will be able to continue to afford spending money on the safety net of a veteran backup quarterback. This likely means the Chiefs will have to depend on quality young backups for Mahomes.
At the same time, Mahomes’ contract — which is now fully guaranteed through 2022, and will continue to be guaranteed for two seasons in advance of the current season through 2024 — will put more pressure on the Chiefs to give Mahomes time off during regular-season games; they’ll want their relatively inexperienced young backups to see some real action when the team is holding a big lead — or when a late-season game is meaningless. Fortunately, as the Chiefs defense continues to improve, this will involve less risk than it has during Mahomes’ first two seasons as a starter.
But on Friday, we learned that the Chiefs aren’t quite ready to give up on veteran backup quarterbacks — at least not in the 2020 season.
This will give the team four quarterbacks as they head into training camp: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne and Moore — plus the rookie (and former XFL standout) Jordan Ta’amu, who took over the starting quarterback job at Ole Miss when Patterson transferred to Michigan.
Moore — who was quickly signed to the team after Henne was injured in a preseason game last season — started two games in 2019 after coming in to replace Mahomes when he dislocated his kneecap during the Week 7 victory over the Denver Broncos. In the offseason, the Chiefs opted to retain Henne — who is under contract through 2021 — and give Moore the opportunity to find work elsewhere after going 1-1 in his Chiefs starts.
Paylor likely has it right: this move is insurance on top of insurance. No other veteran free agent would be better equipped to step in should Mahomes and Henne be injured (or be restricted from playing because of a coronavirus infection) during the coming season.
Then we closed out a week chock-full of Mahomes contract news with Ron Kopp’s absolutely delightful look back from Mahomes’ 2034 retirement, recalling the moment he decided to go for all the records.
“Don’t you want to get to six Super Bowl titles?” Veach argued. “Imagine celebrating that with your family as the confetti falls on the field! I know it was special when they were younger, but they’ll be better able to understand the significance now.”
Mahomes sat back in his chair and thought about it. He had noticed how much fun his kids had with the team. The team’s offensive coordinator (and good friend) Chad Henne had earned the nickname “Uncle Chad” for how much attention he had given Andy and Tammy, who had been named after their godparents. Veteran left tackle Lucas Niang loved to carry one of them on each shoulder and run them around acting like an airplane.
Mahomes closed his eyes, imagining the feeling of reaching those records. The six Super Bowl titles... the most passing touchdowns ever... the all-time record for passing yards... all the goals he had envisioned achieving when he first signed the 10-year extension back in 2020. It seemed so long ago now!