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Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes

Breaking down every guarantee in Patrick Mahomes’ new mega-deal

What we would all do to be as rich as Patrick Mahomes just signed up to be. By earning a half-billion dollars by the time his new mega-contract with the Kansas City Chiefs is over with, Mahomes will be able to add that to his growing list of endorsement deals and promotion opportunities. The former Texas Tech Red Raiders quarterback will be living the easy, lavish life for the rest of his years, both in and out of the NFL.

The amount of pressure suddenly placed onto his shoulders with this new 10-year dal is quite a shock to the system. But for the signal-caller, who has already earned league Most Valuable Player honors, as well as Super Bowl MVP honors on his way to winning a ring (all before he turned 25 years old), all he has to do is to continue on the path that got him to this point in his football career, and he will be fine.

His 10-year deal, which is tacked onto the final two years of his current rookie contract, means that Mahomes is slated to be the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs until the end of the 2031 season. At that point he will be 36 years old and potentially either looking to ride off into the sunset or get a final deal, a la Tom Brady.

A big facet of his contract, as Sports Illustrated details, is that there are no reasonable outs for the Chiefs to take advantage of. This means that the likelihood of Mahomes to earn every single penny of his deal looks likely.

Before getting into the details, it was noted in Albert Breer’s piece that the Chiefs and Mahomes structured this contract in such a way that protects the Chiefs next year, while also giving future security to Mahomes. However, that element matters little, especially since he was going to be earning what most had figured would be the largest deal in NFL history on the open market anyway.

Specifically pertaining to protecting the Chiefs, the 2020 and 2021 seasons are the final two years of Mahomes’ rookie deal, with 2021 constituting the fifth-year option that the team picked up since he was a first-round selection.

Base salaries aside (seeing as how both sit under $1 million each), the cap hit for Mahomes jumps $19.5-plus million for the 2021 season, from $5.3M to $24.8M. Those figures are written into the pre-determined rookie scale contract that he signed back in 2017, but they also are very helpful for mitigating any risk that the Chiefs may be forced to deal with by the league.

With margins down and projected to be a lot closer to red this year due to the ongoing pandemic, profits are slated to come in at much lower numbers than the league had originally projected they would be. Therefore, with the Chiefs leaving the next two seasons of Mahomes’ deal alone and tacking on 10 years when the cap is expected to be more in the favor of both the teams and its players, the Chiefs are able to plan for what other pitfalls may occur in the near future all while locking up their generational superstar.

One element that did end up changing was the dead money cap hit that the team would incur if they, for some reason, felt compelled to move on from Mahomes. In 2020 alone, the team would be saddled with a dead cap amount of above $60 million, with that figure dropping down to $59.6M, $34.9M, $4M and then $2M in the 2024 season.

The figures for Mahomes do not make that massive jump until 2022, which also happens to be the first year of his new deal. Slated to come in at a cap hit of $31.45 million, $27.4 million of that amount comes in the form of a roster bonus, which starts the trend of the early contract years being heavy in roster amounts and lighter in base salary amounts.

As his contract progresses, the money shifts to being heavy on the base salary side, although this category does not receive an uptick above $20M until the 2029 season.

In terms of specific contractual guarantees, look at the following list (pulled directly from Breer’s article) and then read below for the breakdowns of each specific element.

By cutting Mahomes today, the cap number tied to his name would rise from $2.8 to $63 million.

On the third day of the 2021 league year (in March), Kansas City can cut Mahomes a check for $52.25 million to get out of the deal. If they go forward with it, an additional $40.45 million becomes fully guaranteed.

On the third day of the 2022 league year, the Cheifs can pay Mahomes $70 million to get out of the deal. If they go forward, another $38 million becomes fully guaranteed.

On the third day of the 2023 league year, the Chiefs can pay Mahomes $78.4 million to get out of the deal. If they go forward, another $38.9 million becomes fully guaranteed.

On the third day of the 2024 league year, Kansas City can pay Mahomes $76.85 million to get out of the deal. If they go forward, another $3.05 million becomes fully guaranteed.

On the third day of the 2025 league year, the Chiefs can pay Mahomes $41.95 million to get out of the deal. If they go forward, another $38.9 million becomes fully guaranteed.

On the third day of the 2026 league year, Mahomes’s $49.4 million roster bonus for 2027 becomes fully guaranteed.

If the Chiefs cut Mahomes after the 2026 season, he’ll have had a five-year, $247 million extension, and get to free agency at age 31. If they don’t, they have to guarantee another $55 million.

If he’s on the team that March, on the third day of the 2027 league year, the Chiefs will be paying him a $49.4 million roster bonus, separate from the $55 million guarantee. This in essence locks in a $250 million windfall over the deal’s final five seasons.

In short, the third day of each league year (not to be confused with the season) means a ton to the longevity in which Mahomes gets to don the red and gold. And tied to that fact is the idea that the Chiefs, while there are outs each and every season if they so choose to move on, will not be moving on from Mahomes based on the sheer amount of money that they would need to fork over just to cut ties with him.

The first of these nine items was already touched on earlier in the article, so onto the other eight, which all practically go hand-in-hand.

Including the final year of his rookie deal plus the first five seasons of his extension, the Chiefs will be forced to lock in the contractual guarantees for Mahomes early on in the year, which can help, because it gives them a straight look into the remaining amount of funds that they have at their disposal moving forward. And while the figures, which range from $41.95 to $78.4 million, are there for the Chiefs to pay out to Mahomes and move on, the likelihood that happens seems to dwindle as the years go by.

Severe injuries or unforeseen off-field concerns would be the main two culprits for any sort of early termination for this deal. Even if injuries did become a big-time issue, there certainly are insurance-based facets tied to this monster of a deal that protects Mahomes in the event of a threatening injury.

An important, and somewhat easier part of this deal to understand thanks to the plain English that Breer laid it out in, is the guaranteed money that gets cemented every time the team decides to move forward with Mahomes on the team. That amount always is less than what the Chiefs would need to pay if they were looking to get out of the deal, meaning that the idea of keeping Mahomes on the roster looks like a better option than moving on from him, in terms of finances.

An interesting aspect that happens after the 2026 season is how his new extension could be cut in half if Mahomes is looking to cash in on a potential spike in cap space. This would be solved through a new deal or a restructuring of his current contract that could potentially tie his yearly salary to a percent of the salary cap each season, guaranteeing a raise.

With how his contract is structured, Mahomes could either turn the first five years of his deal into $247 million and a chance at a new, more profitable deal. If he remains a member of the Chiefs after the end of the 2026 season and past the third day of the 2027 league year, then in addition to the $55 million in guaranteed cash that he earns with being on the team going into the 2027 season, he also earns an extra $49.4 million in the form of a roster bonus. This would essentially lock down Mahomes and ties the Chiefs to him for the final five years of his deal, which constitutes another $250 million.

Intricacies woven into this deal makes it very appetizing for Mahomes moving forward, even though tying his deal to a percent of the cap (instead of pre-determined but fluctuating values) would provide more cash over time, even with the upcoming projected cap drops.

The Chiefs, while they are committing over $500 million to just one player over the next 12 seasons, do receive some benefits here too, mostly knowing that the role of quarterback is set for over the next decade. They are also knowing what they will enter each season with for cap space to fully operate and maintain a Super Bowl contender.

Mahomes obviously came out of this deal as a winner, as setting the league record for a contract based on monetary figures always slides into the corner of the player who signed it. But the Chiefs did gain some flexibility here too, even if their salary cap balance says otherwise.