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What a difference a calendar year makes for the Chiefs

The Chiefs future is far brighter even after Super Bowl 57

NFL: AFC Championship-Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs watched Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals hoist the Lamar Hunt Trophy on their home field. The Chiefs choked away a 21-3 lead at home with a third straight Super Bowl firmly in their grasp. The outlook for the future of the Chiefs felt somewhat bleak.

The franchise was looking at another year of late-round draft picks, a tight salary cap situation and several star players needing new contracts. Most of all, there was fear that perhaps the Chiefs window was closing as teams like the Bengals and Buffalo Bills passed them by with rookie quarterback contracts.

Then came the arms race of the AFC, where it seemed as if every team started with the goal of dethroning the Chiefs. Kansas City fans watched star players walk to free agency or get traded away. It definitely felt as though the Chiefs wasted their last best opportunity to get to the Super Bowl. Their defense was filled with holes, the pass rush was among the worst in the NFL, and the offense stalled out just short of the Super Bowl. Changes needed to be made.

One year later...

The Chiefs (finally) defeated the Bengals and are going to their third Super Bowl in five years. Besides the obvious improvement at the end of their season, there is much to be excited about for the future of the Chiefs compared to last year. First, the Chiefs have a chance to cement the legacies of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid as some of the greatest ever at their position. Mahomes has answered the final and most important question for a star quarterback:

Can you elevate the talent around you?

Mahomes will likely win his second MVP award next week while only having one pass-catcher eclipse 1,000 receiving yards. Mahomes has been the best player in football for years, but this year, he was able to prove it was really about his play and not being elevated by the likes of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins or Kareem Hunt.

The Chiefs head into the 2023 offseason 11th in cap space, with the flexibility to generate even more space. They head into the draft with twelve draft picks after a season where they had seven rookies all play meaningful snaps deep into the playoffs. Those same rookies now get an entire offseason to train and practice like a pro. Their development into year two is a big positive for this young roster.

Additionally, some of the Chiefs' closest competitors in the AFC are losing their flexibility of having a cheap quarterback. Bills quarterback Josh Allen's cap hit jumps to $39 million in 2023, and Lamar Jackson will either be playing on a new deal or the exclusive franchise tag, which carries a $45 million price tag. Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow are all expected to get new deals this offseason.

While these new deals typically feature cheap first and second years of the contract, they do require ownership to have the cash to escrow the guaranteed dollars of their deals. Long story short, there will be a real lack of cap and cash for many AFC contenders this offseason. This makes the Chiefs buyers in a buyers' market.

The future of the Chiefs is as bright as ever, no matter what happens in Arizona. This season has been a tremendous success.

Now all that’s left? Win it all.

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