During this past NFL offseason, it felt like every top quarterback who wasn’t already getting paid got paid.
In the wake of Super Bowl LVII, the Philadelphia Eagles extended the contract of quarterback Jalen Hurts with a huge number. Then the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers paid their respective quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert at the top of the market. Finally — just before the season began — the Cincinnati Bengals topped it all when Joe Burrow signed a five-year deal worth $275 million.
Through it all, the league’s unquestioned best quarterback waited patiently. While the Kansas City Chiefs’ $450 million deal with Patrick Mahomes was still blowing away the market in total value, the contract revision to which he and the team agreed this week put the reigning league MVP’s deal back close to the top in average annual value (AAV) from 2023 through 2026.
Speaking to reporters before Wednesday’s practice at the Chiefs’ training facility, Mahomes spoke about how the restructure came about.
“It’s just constant communication,” he began. “between me, my people, the front office, Clark Hunt [and] Coach Reid to find the right spot where I can get paid, keep the quarterback market going — and at the same time, keep a lot of great dudes around me and keep cap space for other guys to get signed as well.
“That’ll be something I do throughout my entire career: to make money for myself and my family, but to keep a lot of great players around me as well.”
Before the restructure — which puts a record-setting $210.6 million in his pocket over 2023 and the three seasons to follow, Mahomes’ contract was eighth in AAV among NFL players. His $45 million had been surpassed by many players — not only Hurts, Jackson, Herbert and Burrow, but also the Denver Broncos’ quarterback Russell Wilson and the Cleveland Browns’ signal-caller Deshaun Watson.
Mahomes is outrageously better than those players, so it’s important that his contract reflects that. In Mahomes mind, it’s not just about putting more money in his own pocket.
“I don’t want people to negotiate it against me,” he pointed out. “So that’s a reason why you [do] something like I did this past week. I’m just trying to keep the market moving in the right direction — trending in the right direction — so other quarterbacks and [players in] other positions can get paid the money they deserve.”
Mahomes likes the challenge of negotiating with his team.
“I’ve always liked it,” he revealed about the intricacies of his contract negotiations. “If I didn’t become an NFL player, I wanted to become a sports agent — or work in sports marketing. I’ve always wanted to help players, so I have always been interested in it.
“I know that I’m doing it a different way than other people — but I feel like it’s the right way for me, because of the trust I have in the front office that I’m still going to make a lot of money and be set for life — and [for] my kids.”
The key to all this is the trust Mahomes has in general manager Brett Veach — who is known for once being the man who passionately scouted the Texas Tech quarterback — and with vice presidents of football operations Brandt Tilis and Chris Shea. Head coach Andy Reid also wanted to make sure chairman and CEO Clark Hunt got his credit.
“It shows you what kind of owner he is,” Reid noted on Wednesday. “Brett and his crew there, working through that with his agent? Those [deals] aren’t easy; they are complicated. But they worked through it and came up with a good formula for both parties.”
“[It’s] a special relationship that I have with the team,” noted Mahomes, “to be able to trust them, to be able to know this was going to happen — and [that] it’s probably going to happen again at some point.”
Mahomes’ new contract figures are also an exclamation point for Black quarterbacks. He, Jackson and Hurts are among those who are proving they can lead franchises — and transcend the way quarterbacks impact games.
Mahomes is always mindful of his responsibility to continue to move the league past tired narratives about his position.
“As the game gets more diversified in the way that its played, you’ll see more Black quarterbacks in the league — and getting opportunities,” he told his listeners. “I think the next step is having [Black] backup quarterbacks, so that’s something we’ll continue to push in the right direction.
“It just shows that you can play the quarterback position in a lot of different ways, I think that’s the coolest thing. Offensive coordinators are giving quarterbacks the best chance to go out there and succeed. You see that — and this should’ve been happening for years — because you see how high the level of quarterback play has been in the league.”
Mahomes is the example of how good a quarterback can be — and it’s why he is now making $52.65 million AAV from 2023 through 2026. It’s the most money any NFL player has ever made in a four-year span.
That’s because he is a player like no other in league history. It continues to be reflected on the field — so now it is reflected in what he is earning each season. And it’s clear that the next time they need to reset the market, both sides will be comfortable in returning to the negotiating table.