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So far, Patrick Mahomes’ contract hasn’t worked as we expected

Why has Kansas City struggled to meet the demands of the quarterback’s All-Pro teammates?

Baltimore Ravens vs Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

When the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed his 10-year extension that spread a record-breaking $503 million over the length of the deal, it shocked the football world.

Not only was it the largest sum of money ever promised to an NFL player, the contract’s structure was unique. It was longer than most quarterback deals — and featured mechanisms that would allow the team to easily open up cap space when it would be needed.

Chiefs fans rejoiced, praising the Super Bowl MVP for caring about the team’s future — and making it possible for the team to surround him with worthwhile talent.

Fast forward three years.

The team has traded All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill because it wasn’t willing to pay what he was demanding for a new deal. Now it is in negotiation with defensive tackle Chris Jones for a contract extension — but Jones has been holding out of training camp since it began on July 23.

The Chiefs’ offense moved past Hill without much of a hiccup — but Jones’ absence would probably be catastrophic to the defense. Mahomes knows that.

“I’ve talked to Chris,” Mahomes revealed to reporters after Wednesday’s training-camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. “Not necessarily about contract stuff, [because] that’s how I am: I never talk about the contract. I talk about football — [and] how he’s doing. He’s working out; he’s staying in shape. All that will handle itself. All I can do is support him — be a teammate.

“That is one of the guys that has been a staple of this organization for a long time. Hopefully, we get him back in camp as soon as possible.”

Head coach Andy Reid was asked about Jones’ absence last Friday. At that time, he told reporters that he hadn’t talked to his star defensive lineman in a few days — and that Jones had given him no indication about when he might arrive.

Each day that Jones does not report to camp, it seems less likely that the team and Jones will come to terms. Furthermore, it is disrupting the defense’s preparation for the season; the players who have been taking Jones’ place at training camp are generally not projected to even make the 53-man roster.

In an ideal world, the team would not find itself in this situation. But compared to other teams that are paying superstar quarterbacks their due, the Chiefs are in an ideal world. No other team has the same luxuries of flexibility and liquidity that Kansas City possesses with Mahomes’ contract.

That was deliberate.

“I’ve looked at Tom [Brady’s] model and how he did it,” Mahomes recently told Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. “That’s it: you want to make money for yourself and for your family — [and] you want to keep pushing the market forward for other quarterbacks. You don’t want to be someone that they [use against other players].

“But at the same time, I want these other guys to get paid. I want Chris Jones to be in training camp. I want Travis Kelce to always be making money. I want everybody on the team here. I have a great offensive line. It’s everything around me.

“It’s all about having open conversations with [general manager] Brett Veach, Coach Reid [and owner] Clark Hunt — and just knowing where that happy medium is.

“That will be out there throughout my entire career. To me, it’s not always about being the highest-paid. It’s about making enough money for me and my family — and [to] keep moving the game forward for everybody.”

Mahomes clearly values the great players he has around him. But has his contract actually helped keep them around? After all, tight end Travis Kelce has also sacrificed money. The game’s greatest tight end has only the third-highest average annual contract among the league’s tight ends. He’s also taken multiple restructures over the last few years — including one during the 2022 season.

Two of the team’s top players are sacrificing earnings — and yet, the team cannot come to terms with Jones.

The negotiation process is never easy — and it’s usually opaque. Jones and the team may very well be closer to an agreement than it feels they are. Still, the star defender’s absence is a reminder that Mahomes specifically structured his contract to avoid these kinds of hardball negotiations. Even so, this still feels like it could be the second time Mahomes loses an All-Pro teammate. If the two sides don’t agree to an extension, it’s very likely that Jones will be playing elsewhere in 2024.

This is not the result that any party involved in Mahomes’ record-breaking deal envisioned — especially the man himself. His attempt at ultimate selflessness is looking more and more like a severe underpayment — one that didn’t even achieve its goal.

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