FOX Sports Insider
What’s really scary about Patrick Mahomes usually has to do with what he does, not what he says.
The “nasty” side of Kansas City’s two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback lies in how he inflicts pain inside the white lines, punishing with thousands of cuts (or throws or runs), while defenses and fans live with the perpetual fear that the next heartbreaking play may be just a moment of inspiration away.
Mahomes doesn’t growl or snarl much, his voice is measured, not gruff, his responses to interviews are primarily designed to educate rather than intimidate. In general, he seems like a nice guy.
Yet this week, Mahomes issued a series of comments that should strike terror into the hearts of every opposing team with plans for their own Super Bowls in the years to come.
“I’m more concerned with the legacy and winning rings than making money right now,” Mahomes told reporters. “We see what happens in the league. But at the same time, I will never do anything that will hurt us to keep the great players around me.”
Do you speak corporate? Saying the right thing for the purpose of popularity or morality? Not so much. Mahomes, who quickly went from a record-breaker in terms of contract value to little more than a standard salaryman by annual salary, basically said that while he’s not blind to the reality of rising QB pay, he’s not looking to squeeze every dollar out of the Chiefs.
And that, in these days when salary cap management is the most complicated and mathematically nervous enabler (or impediment) to success, could turn out to be the greatest advantage in the sport.
Given that Mahomes is still only 27 years old, that the Chiefs have already won a pair of Super Bowls, and that their most abject “failures” have been two losses in the AFC Championship game? Yeah, that’s scary.
Just think about how fervently franchises go after promising rookie quarterbacks, assuming that having a fairly good pitcher on a cheap contract and surrounding him with quality pieces is an ideal way to open a “championship window.”
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So what does it mean to have the best signaler in the National Football League on a long-term contract that gives him $15-20 million less than his market value? That’s not opening the window; it’s taking a sledgehammer for it.
In July 2020, Mahomes signed a huge deal, tying him to the Chiefs with a potential mind-blowing $503 million, but what in real terms was a 10-year extension at $45 million per year. In quick order, faster than expected, the market has caught up and gone ahead.
Deshaun Watson got a fully guaranteed $46 million per year from the Cleveland Browns despite not playing in 2021. Jalen Hurts, Mahomes’ rival in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl LVII win over Philadelphia in February, set a new record in $51 million. Before Hurts could cash his first check, Lamar Jackson raised the bar to $52 million annually, with Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert surely licking their lips.
Suddenly, Mahomes’ deal, with nine seasons remaining, seems like the bargain of all bargains. That doesn’t seem to bother him much.
“It’s not about being the highest paid guy and making a lot of money,” Mahomes added. “I’ve made enough money where I’ll settle for the rest of my life. You’ve got to find that line where you’re making a good amount of money and you’re keeping these great players around you, so you can win these Super Bowls and you can compete in these games.”
Here’s the thing: To give the Chiefs a huge lead, Mahomes doesn’t have to do anything. Tom Brady consistently took favorable below-market team deals for virtually his entire career, allowing the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to rack up quality spares alongside him.
Mahomes is signed long-term, so he doesn’t even have to do that. He doesn’t need to go into talks and agree to a contract that would give him less than Jackson or Hurts, when clearly, on the evidence, he deserves more. What is Mahomes’ real value compared to recent deals? 60 million dollars a year? Maybe more?
All he needs to do is spend a few more years under the terms of his current deal before pushing for a renegotiation, and the Chiefs will be in prime territory to add to the jewelry collection.
Clearly, success is never assured and one must consider that there are changes afoot in Kansas City. Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has joined the Washington Commanders, while Travis Kelce will turn 34 next season and has already hinted at his retirement.
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Pertinently for Mahomes, left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. left for Cincinnati after the Chiefs decided to move on from him. Before last season, Tyreek Hill headed to Miami, despite his connection to Mahomes.
While Mahomes’ contract allows GM Brett Veach some flexibility, it still doesn’t mean he can keep everyone or keep everyone happy.
Maybe the situation will change eventually. Maybe QB’s money gets so out of control that there comes a time when Mahomes gets tired of being a mid-market salaryman, which is the direction things are headed.
Or maybe the legacy piece is the enduring driver of your motivation. Remember this: Even with two Super Bowl titles, he has an odd quarterback quality about him. One more ring would put him level with Troy Aikman for fourth on the all-time list and just behind Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana.
Surely that’s a tempting thought for him, and for a Chiefs franchise that hadn’t won a Super Bowl in half a century until he came along. And, for everyone else, a bleak outlook.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @mrogersfox and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
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