When it comes to signing a young franchise quarterback to a second contract, the sooner the team gets it done, the cheaper it will be. The Chiefs officially have commenced the process of getting a long-term deal done with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star reports that negotiations between the Chiefs and Mahomes have begun.
The best player in the NFL after only two seasons as a starter and already on track to be one of the best to ever play the game, Mahomes deserves to be the highest paid player in football. Many have suggested that he’ll be the first player to crack the $40 million-per-year threshhold.
With two years left on his rookie deal, it won’t cost $40 million per year to get to $40 million per year, given the way the NFL and NFL Players Association values contracts. A five-year, $200 million extension (i.e., $40 million per year in new money) would become, given the money he’s due to make in 2020 ($2.794 million) and 2021 ($24.837 million), a seven-year contract with an annual value at signing of $32.5 million.
For the Chiefs, the prospect of getting Mahomes committed through 2026 at $32.5 million per year is a ski-mask bargain. That could result in Mahomes wanting a shorter-term deal, like a four-year extension. At $40 million per year in new money, a four-year extension would cost the Chiefs $31.27 million per year at signing. Again, another ski-mask bargain.
When fans see that Mahomes is worth $40 million per year (he is), they’ll likely think he’s getting $40 million per year at signing. But giving Mahomes a deal worth $40 million per year at signing would drive the new-money average through the roof. If, for example, the Chiefs were to rip up the two years left on Mahomes’ current deal and replace it with a six-year, $240 million contract (i.e., $40 million per year at signing), the new-money average would become $53 million per year.
The ultimate challenge becomes finding a way to give Mahomes what he has earned without wrecking the team’s salary-cap situation. And that’s why Mahomes should be the first player to have his compensation tied to salary-cap percentage.
Such a contract would have specific salary figures for each year of the deal (which would protect him against a drop in the salary cap), along with a commitment that his compensation would always reflect at least, say, 15 percent of the team’s total salary cap. As the cap keeps going up (after the dust settles on the pandemic it surely will), Mahomes would be protected against his deal becoming obsolete, without being perceived as a salary-cap hog.
Whatever his pay, there would always be, for example, 85 cents on the dollar left to put a team around him. Or 84. Or 83. Whatever the two sides decide the best number is, that’s the amount that will be left, year-in and year-out.
Mahomes has made it clear that he wants to leave enough money on the table for other players. He could, if he wanted, take a harder-line position, telling management that it’s their job to manage the cap and to put quality players on the field with him. If the two sides find a way to peg his pay to a specific, predetermined percentage of the salary cap, there will be no issue regarding whether he’s getting too much or not enough. Whatever the cap, he’ll get the same piece every year, relative to the rest of it.
Other players have tried to tie compensation to cap percentage. The teams have resisted, possibly at the behest of the NFL’s Management Council. Regardless, the right player to blaze that trial is Mahomes — and here’s hoping that he and his agents use their leverage to get something like that done, for the good of Mahomes and for other players behind him who would have a better chance of securing a similar term.