Twelve years ago, Chiefs coach Herm Edwards was deciding between Brodie Croyle, Damon Huard and Tyler Thigpen as his quarterback.
Twelve years from now, Patrick Mahomes will remain under contract with the Chiefs.
Kids who just finished kindergarten will be in college when Mahomes’ new contract expires. Kids who just finished fourth grade will be trying to intercept Mahomes, or perhaps blocking for him.
We knew this was coming. We didn’t know this was coming, and not just that the news was broken by a woman who sold champagne for the Chiefs’ front office celebration.
The Chiefs all but promised Mahomes’ next contract would be historic, and they outshot that expectation — 10 years, with the contract kicking in after his rookie deal expires in two years, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal is worth up to $503 million — sports’ first half-billion dollar deal — and includes $477 million in “guarantee mechanisms,” with opt-outs if those aren’t exercised, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
This is the first time an NFL player has held sports’ richest contract. No player has ever been tied to a team for a longer period of time. Chris Cabott, the president and COO of Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, helped negotiate a deal that will benefit not just his client but players across the league.
The contract is without precedent because Mahomes is without precedent. He is a league and Super Bowl MVP before his 25th birthday while playing the most important position in professional sports.
His worst season as a starter is either the time he threw for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, or the time he led three consecutive double-digit postseason comebacks in winning the Chiefs’ first Super Bowl since before his father was born.
Before Mahomes, the Chiefs were exactly good enough to lose in the playoffs.
With Mahomes, damn near anything is possible on any snap, in any game, in any season. A generation of Kansas City kids will graduate from high school knowing nothing but a world in which their local football team employs one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history.
What a time to be alive.
The Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV, return 20 of 22 starters, improved their already absurd offense, retained offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and signed Mahomes to what is effectively a lifetime contract. We don’t know how defensive lineman Chris Jones’ negotiations will end, but lets just say teams have had worse off-seasons.
For Mahomes, he won the Super Bowl MVP, slammed many domestics during the parade, influenced Whataburger to expand to Kansas City, starred in a video that forced the commissioner to apologize and now has a contract that will make him his sport’s richest player and benefit the league’s other stars for years. Let’s just say players have had less impressive stretches of five months.
Speaking of Jones, because Mahomes’ new deal is a contract extension kicking in for the 2022 season, it is not materially significant for the second-most anticipated personnel decision of the Chiefs’ offseason.
You cannot have followed the Chiefs for more than a few years and not feel like the world has shifted. For years — for decades, really — the top of the league has felt close enough to see but too far away to touch.
The Chiefs made a lot of smart decisions. They hired a lot of good people. They employed stars, from Deron Cherry to Christian Okoye to Derrick Thomas to Priest Holmes to Tony Gonzalez to Justin Houston to Eric Berry. But none of it was enough.
In Andy Reid’s seven years, the Chiefs have done more than merely be right on Mahomes. They drafted Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill and Jones. They signed Mitchell Schwartz and Tyrann Mathieu in free agency. They traded for Frank Clark and Charvarius Ward.
But none of these things had an impact like being so undeniably correct about perhaps the most all-in decision in franchise history: trading two first-round picks and a third-round pick at a time when some believed they were better off adding to a team that had just gone 12-4 with a division championship.
The Chiefs were almost brazenly right with this — they began planning for this contract extension before Mahomes’ first snap, and general manager Brett Veach called Mahomes the best player he’d ever seen before Mahomes’ first season as a starter.
If they were wrong about Mahomes, they had basically no safety net. The Chiefs would be going with Andy Dalton or Cam Newton or Jordan Love at quarterback right now.
Instead, they have the league’s best.
There is risk in everything. This is no different. Mahomes could be injured, or he could have already played his best two seasons. Andy Reid won’t coach forever, and Mahomes is unlikely to be surrounded by this much skill-position talent for the rest of his career. If this is as good as it gets, then Mahomes and the Chiefs will each feel unfulfilled.
This is a percentage play. Because if Mahomes is not going to be widely regarded as one of the best few to ever do it by the time this contract is finished, we have yet to see the reason.
Defenses adjusted to him in 2019, and he had to compete through a knee injury that limited his ability to extend plays. He still threw for 2,752 yards, 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in 10 games after the injury, including the playoffs. The Chiefs averaged more than 30 points in the postseason.
The only professional disappointment he’s suffered so far is the time the 2018 Chiefs’ defense beat him in the AFC Championship Game.
Mahomes is outrageously talented but also intensely smart. He has shown himself to be at his best in the biggest moments, with a natural leadership that won over a locker room filled with older teammates almost immediately. He won a league MVP trophy in his first year as a starter, and then worked harder and became even more effective.
Just spitballing, but the likeliest reasons for Mahomes’ career to be sidetracked from historic are injury, his work ethic fading with success and the Chiefs failing to surround him with enough talent.
The first is true with any athlete, the second has so far gone the opposite way, and the Chiefs’ GM is just 41 years old.
Guarantees don’t exist, but which way would you bet about whether the Chiefs just locked up one of the best 10 quarterbacks of all time?
The Chiefs have been right about Mahomes every step so far. He’s given them nothing but reasons to believe that the biggest contract in league history will also be one of the best.
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