If it wasn’t obvious prior to last Wednesday’s Super Bowl LVII parade in Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Brett Veach and others made it abundantly clear: the Kansas City Chiefs were celebrating winning another Lombardi Trophy during a season that others had described as a rebuilding year.
There’s just no other way to describe what happened. A future Hall of Fame wide receiver was traded away. Almost 20% of the team’s players were in their first NFL season. That’s not a team that’s supposed to be playing in a Super Bowl. That’s a point that was repeatedly made by analysts and oddsmakers throughout the season.
So while Kansas City fans continue to celebrate winning another world title, let’s examine why folks should still be buying Chiefs stock. Much to the dismay of fan bases in Cincinnati, Buffalo, Baltimore and several other AFC cities, there are more reasons than ever to believe the franchise
could should get back to the top in several of the seasons to come.
Of course, the Chiefs’ elite, dynastic-level production starts with quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He’s the lynchpin that transformed the organization from a consistent playoff team to a perennial Super Bowl contender. But he is not alone. Other Hall of Fame-caliber players like tight end Travis Kelce and defensive tackle Chris Jones also play big roles.
The rest of the roster flourishes around these superstars because of how well the entire football operation works. At this point in head coach Andy Reid’s career, he wants to do just two things: coach the team and lead the offense. In Brett Veach, Reid has a general manager he trusts implicitly; Veach and his staff have proved capable of finding physically-capable players with the right character to fit the team’s culture — whether it’s through the draft, by trade or through free agency. From there, Reid and his well-respected coaches can take care of the rest.
All of this is before we even consider the positive impact that those like Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt (or team president Mark Donovan) also have on the team’s culture. While we’re living it, it all sounds simple and obvious — but it’s something that very few franchises ever get all the way right. From top to bottom, Kansas City has constructed the kind of organization that is required for the success the Chiefs currently enjoy.
Draft and financial resource flexibility
Super Bowl winners often come out of the championship game with limited resources; they’ve all been used to win the title. Look no further than last season’s Super Bowl winners: the Los Angeles Rams. That franchise hasn’t selected a first-round player since 2016 — and in the aftermath of the trade that landed them quarterback Matthew Stafford, they won’t pick in 2023’s first round, either.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that a team featuring veteran stars like Mahomes, Kelce and Jones wouldn’t be in a great position with its salary cap. But right now, the Chiefs can create as much cap space as they need. This is a tribute to the kinds of contracts Veach has created — including Mahomes’ (largely) team-friendly deal. Still, fans shouldn’t expect many major signings in free agency. It’s more likely that Veach will be focusing on extensions for homegrown players like Jones and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed — along with other young players.
During Mahomes’ first three seasons as the starter, Kansas City’s roster was pretty top-heavy; it largely depended on a handful of elite players to make the difference in big games. Mathematically, that remained true in 2021 and 2022. In the just-completed season, five players — Mahomes, Jones, Kelce, offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., and defensive end Frank Clark — accounted for nearly 50% of the team’s salary-cap spending.
But in the last two seasons, these star players (and their big contracts) were married up with some very good young players working under inexpensive rookie contracts. This championship might not have been possible without players like offensive linemen Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith, linebackers Nick Bolton and Leo Chenal, running back Isiah Pacheco, defensive end George Karlaftis, cornerbacks Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams, safety Bryan Cook and several other steady contributors.
While the Chiefs will probably return the vast majority of their key players for 2023, it will also be possible to acquire a few veterans without severe financial consequences. Furthermore, the Chiefs are projected to have as many as 12 draft picks — at least one in each round of the 2023 draft that will be hosted in Kansas City.
In fact, the Chiefs have managed their resources better than any other serious contender — which this data clearly shows.
With the regular season over a majority of NFL teams will now turn to the offseason to find players to improve their roster. I wrote about which teams have the most overall offseason resources using cap space, draft capital, and prorateable money— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) January 10, 2023
Article: https://t.co/F6Yfww3C3l pic.twitter.com/4uMWTHXvwH
As we see here, Kansas City’s available resources are more in line with young, rebuilding franchises than they are to competitors like the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers — and even the lowly Denver Broncos.
In the case of another contender — the Cincinnati Bengals — ample cap space is available, but the team must budget for large contract extensions that will be needed for quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receivers Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase. Continuing to improve their offensive line (or maintain a stout defense) will only get harder as those contracts are signed. That’s a hurdle the Chiefs have already been working through
In short, it is pretty clear that Kansas City will enter the 2023 season with an even better overall roster than the one that just won it all. Does this guarantee we’ll see the Chiefs at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas next February? Of course not — but the odds are likely to be much better than fans of other teams would like to admit.
A growing legend
With another championship, the praise Kansas City has been receiving during the past five seasons is further justified.
It’s already common practice to expect a Mahomes-led team to come back from double-digit deficits. After another incredible comeback in Super Bowl LVII, those expectations have been — excuse me, burrowed — into the minds of both fans and players.
Does this mean that veteran players chasing Super Bowl rings will want to play for the Chiefs? It’s hardly even up for debate any longer. Now that the franchise has separated itself from one-off Super Bowl winners, there’s tangible evidence that a player’s best chance to earn a championship ring is in Kansas City.
It might not be fair, but it’s a fact: it’s almost always easier for NFL franchises to win a second, third or even a fourth world championship than it is to win the first one. There’s a level of mental confidence and freedom that can only be earned by securing that first title. Every time a team gets close — but comes up short — it only gets harder. The pressure mounts.
But that’s no longer the case in Kansas City. With two Super Bowl wins in four seasons, the expectation is success. The players, coaches and staff expect it — and know what it takes to achieve it.
So for those who don’t like the Chiefs — or want their own team to surpass them — times are hard right now. But for those supporting the franchise (and following along here at Arrowhead Pride), times have never been better.