And just like that, almost out of nowhere, Patrick Mahomes signs the biggest deal in sports history. The former league MVP, two time pro bowler and Superbowl MVP can now add the title of “longest and largest contract in NFL History” to his resume. Chiefs fans can rest easy knowing their guy is going to be throwing dimes at Arrowhead Stadium for some time.
Money Money Money
Maybe it seems a little crude to talk about money in a global economic crisis… But it would be silly not to: Mahomes’ extension is worth up to $503million. For those who didn’t pay much attention in maths class: that’s over half a billion dollars. This puts Mahomes at the top of global sports contracts; surpassing Mike Trout’s 12 year contract with the LA Angels (MLB) and Canelo Alvarez’ 5 year boxing deal with DANZ by over $75 and $138million, respectively. Mahomes’ deal almost makes former top paid footballer Matt Ryan’s 5 year $150million extension look almost cheap.
Money is one thing, but what’s the cost to the Chiefs? They’ve got to fit those huge pay checks in with the salary cap. And use what’s left to add pieces around Mahomes to be in a position to win.
As he’s still in his rookie contract this extension does little to change the Chiefs cap this year – his $5.35m cap hit is only 2.7% of the $198m. According to the good people at spotrac.com Mahomes cap figure is $24.8m next year, then $31.45m in 2022. Sound like a lot? Well keep in mind Big Ben is due to count $41.25m against the cap for the Stealers in 2021. Ben is coming off a season ending elbow injury and is fourteen years Mahomes senior.
Mahomes new contract really starts to kick in during 2023, when his cap hit will be $42.25m. It stays around there until it rockets to $59.95m in 2027.
An increasing wage isn’t anything new; most big contracts are “back loaded” to rise each subsequent year, in line with an increasing salary cap. But in the midst of a global pandemic that is threatening to keep stadiums empty, at an average loss of $100m to each team, many fear the annual salary cap increase may be non-existent for a few years, pushing Mahomes cap % way up. The Chiefs will be hoping the cap rises somewhat significantly before 2027 – Mahomes is good but they’ll have to pay for some teammates too.
The Face of the League?
What’s not to like about Mahomes? The no-look passes? The youngest ever player to win the league and Superbowl MVP? How over the past two seasons he’s thrown 10 more touchdowns than anyone else?
There’s a lot to like. He’s easily the face of the Chiefs and arguably the face of the NFL itself. You could have an argument as to whether he’s the best player in the league or not. At the young age of only 24 you’d struggle to argue Mahomes isn’t the most valuable asset in the league. It’s easy to see why the Chiefs would want to lock him up until 2031. If he can avoid serious injuries and continues to play as well, heaven help the rest of the league if he improves further, the Chiefs will have one of the best players in the league for some time.
Nothing is without risk, especially in sports. There’s always risk of injury and even the risk that maybe he’s not that good? The latter currently seems unlikely, but he has only played two full seasons, it wouldn’t be crazy for there to be some sort of drop off. We’re only a week past former league MVP and three time Pro-bowler Cam Newton signed with the Patriots for a vet minimum $0.5m.
If Mahomes can stay healthy and as good as he is right now, if not better: There’s a third risk, the financial one. It’s too early to guess where the cap will be in a few years, even if it’s not too high: The Chiefs will be in the enviable position of having the best player in the league playing QB for them. They’ll be paying him a lot – but there’d be others who’d happily pay him more.