There are two types of teams in the National Football League: one that has Patrick Mahomes and 31 that don’t.
The Chiefs made sure that fact remains true for at least the next 12 seasons on Monday with an unprecedented and uniquely-structured 10-year, $503 million extension. A rare contract is fitting of a rare player who has found levels of success that some Hall of Fame players take an entire career to achieve — and in some cases don’t achieve (I’m looking at you, Dan Marino).
Millions of us just finished watching “The Last Dance” — a 10-part series on the final championship season of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Interwoven in that documentary was also the story of the meteoric rise of Jordan — a fast-growing phenomenon. The contract Mahomes agreed to on Monday is an indication that we are on the precipice of a Jordan-esque era in the National Football League. That contract tells the world what the market for the greatest player in football is — and it’s the largest in the history of sports.
Whatever figures were ultimately announced on this deal — whatever the structure, signing bonus, years, etc. — the numbers were going to be justifiable. What’s more, is it may play out to be an advantage. The Chiefs have set new precedents in the quarterback market, and young passers like Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott have yet to receive a new contract. 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson is due for a contract extension next year and has found early success as well. All of these players are due for big contracts and Mahomes has dropped a nuclear bomb into their future negotiations. Any additional dollar that is given to the likes of Watson, Prescott, Jackson or any other quarterback is an advantage for the Chiefs in their pursuit of a dynasty.
With all due respect to some very good young quarterbacks, the Chiefs just paid the clear-cut, hands-down, slam-dunk best of the bunch. Two of the three aforementioned are AFC rivals and will be for the foreseeable future. Players might be able to come close to replicating the contract that Mahomes received, but they won’t be able to replicate the production of Mahomes. He is a market inefficiency and there is only one of him. His impact will be felt at every negotiation table for quarterbacks due for an earned payday. We’ve seen the quarterback market rise as seasons have gone on, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. It accelerated when Mahomes drastically reset the market yet again. Mahomes could very well not be the highest average-per-year quarterback by the time this 10-year extension is completed. It’s not going to take long for him to be underpaid by any standard. He might be underpaid already.
Teams reward players with significant contracts for past performance. The statistics accumulated in your rookie deal often determine what kind of contract you will be receiving in your first real payday. Teams signing free agents or their own players to big contracts get a few years of great play before a player starts tapering off toward the end of the deal. The Chiefs are in the rare situation where the trajectory of Mahomes’ career will still be rising for the vast majority of the contract span. On top of his early success, they’re confidently paying for future success and very likely at a bargain. We’ve yet to see the best of Mahomes. Even last year — a season that ended in him winning a Super Bowl MVP — was heavily impacted by injuries. It might have been more impressive than what we saw in his league MVP campaign — overcoming adversity to lead a team beyond the heights they reached the previous year.
Mahomes is going to continue to ascend — he’s just getting started. The mental side of the game will only continue to improve as he sees more as we’ll continue to see rare physical performances intertwined with faster processing. His mark has been left on the field already and now his impact is being felt in all 32 front offices. A new standard has been set for quarterback contracts — and whatever quarterback expects a similar payday likely can’t live up to the figure. Clark Hunt and the front office will be laughing every time a quarterback comes close to receiving what Mahomes did. They know what they have is better.
Agents across the league will be walking in with the figures on this massive deal. With the dollars headed these young passers’ way, complimentary pieces just became much more difficult to provide the likes of Jackson and Watson — something they will need to keep up with the generational talent that is Mahomes. The next time they fall short and feel a need for an injection of talent in free agency to get them over the hump, they may not be able to find the cap space to make it work.
If the Chiefs play their cards right, they can capitalize on their aggressive reset of the quarterback market on the back of the man they just made history with. They have just ensured that they’ll be in every game for the next 12 seasons and potentially beyond. The fun is just getting started at Arrowhead. Don’t take this for granted. You’re in the good days now and you’re privy to history playing right before your eyes.
Your Kansas City Chiefs are the epicenter of the NFL for as long as Mahomes is here — and it’s a lengthy and bright future.