The Kansas City Chiefs can’t sign Patrick Mahomes to a new deal until after this season, but they should be thinking long term.
The conventional wisdom when it comes to NFL contracts, and specifically quarterback contracts, is that the most recent extension of a franchise quarterback typically sets a new standard, inching the average annual compensation for franchise quarterbacks up a bit at a time.
This approach is the only way to explain how Matthew Stafford became the league’s highest-paid quarterback back in 2017, and it is certainly the only way to explain that the quarterback he surpassed was Derek Carr.
The Lions have signed quarterback Matthew Stafford to a five-year contract extension that makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history, according to multiple reports… ‘Highest-paid player in NFL history’ is essentially another way of saying ‘youngish quarterback who signed a contract extension most recently.’ Carr’s five-year extension signed this June made him the NFL’s richest player at $25 million annually. Before Carr, Andrew Luck was the highest-paid player in NFL history, with a six-year, $140 million deal signed in 2016. Aaron Rodgers held the distinction before that, with a five-year, $110 million contract.
This incremental increase has occurred because each time a player is up for an extension, his agent(s) use the contract that last set the market as their benchmark, telling the team during negotiations that they now want their player to come in as the highest-paid player.
On Tuesday, Russell Wilson got his extension. While there had been talk from Peter King about Wilson’s agent pushing for his salary to be the first to be tied to cap percentage, he signed a standard four-year, $140 million extension. In short, Wilson set the new standard for a franchise quarterback at $35 million per year.
If anybody was paying attention to how this negotiation played out, it should have been Brett Veach and the Kansas City Chiefs.
It seems wild, but giving Mahomes a record-shattering deal on a huge term might be the best option, if he and agent Leigh Steinberg agree to it. Think big, as in the neighborhood of 15 years and $400 million. This is highly unlikely to happen, but it wouldn’t be the first time a team has signed a player to a massive length. Donovan McNabb signed on for 12 years and $115 million way back in 2002.
After only one season, it’s clear that Mahomes has the chance to be a generational talent. Again, we have to think long term.
With Mahomes as the reigning NFL MVP and widely recognized as the best young quarterback in the league, Kansas City Star columnist Sam Mellinger threw out a potential number of 10 years and $400 million. This scenario packs the same amount of money into a tighter frame, and also allows Mahomes to hit the market again in his mid-30s.
There are two important truths the Chiefs should consider:
- The longer they wait, the higher that number could go. If Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson signs an extension and sets the $40 million per year mark first, Mahomes’ number will be higher.
- If the Chiefs sign him to a five-year extension worth $180 million or something in that range, they would then have to re-sign him to another, larger extension four years later.
Those reasons, among others, are why the Chiefs should pursue signing Mahomes to an elongated contract extension.
Such a behemoth contract could get Mahomes to bypass having any opt-out clause in the contract, which would be big for the Chiefs. And if Mahomes signed such an eye-popping, history-making deal, it might prevent him from later trying to find leverage for reworking the deal, as we see so often when players feel they have outperformed their contract.
Additionally, the salary cap is going to keep going up. If the Chiefs lock Mahomes in with such a mega-deal, the percentage of the cap they are dedicating to Mahomes will diminish each year Mahomes plays.
It has been since Dan Marino in the mid-1980s that a quarterback this young has shown such talent so quickly. Kansas City must act decisively to not only ensure Mahomes stays in town, but also to make sure his contract stays manageable over the years so they can keep stacking talent around him.