After handing out contract extensions to quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, and defensive tackle Chris Jones this offseason, it seems as though the core of the Kansas City Chiefs has been solidified for many more years to come. Yet, the prevailing feeling is that while they were able to lock up the better players on their team, it could end up coming back to bite them down the road.
From 2020 through the 2023 NFL seasons, the Chiefs have (in order), over $218 million, over $202 million, over $144 million, and over $104 million in total money on the books already, and with the salary cap fluctuations up in the air with the current pandemic putting any sort of planned cap growth on the back burner, they may very well be in over their heads as soon as next season.
Nine players are currently signed to a deal that totals $40 million or more in total potential value, with Mahomes obviously leading the way with his monster 10 year, $450 million super deal. But defensive end Frank Clark ($104 million), Jones ($80 million), Kelce ($57.25 million), and wide receiver Tyreek Hill ($54 million) are also big drops in the bucket that looks to be having less and less water to go around in it.
Locking Mahomes up before he was to enter free agency and turn any sort of next contract into a bidding war is absolutely a smart decision on the part of the front office for Kansas City, and obviously both Jones and Kelce are at or near the top of their respective positional groups in the league, so big contracts come with the territory. But the Chiefs are an injury or two away from having an entire season go down the drain and still be on the hook for huge financial implications.
Kelce just signed a four-year deal as he is already 30 years old, meaning that he will need to justify his $14.3 average yearly salary, combined with his $28 million in guaranteed money. The numbers are obviously in Kelce’s favor, as he has continuously been the best tight end in the NFL over the past four-plus seasons, and with his relatively-clean injury history ever since he entered the league, signs point to this deal working out for both sides.
But the league can change on a dime, and the older players get, the more susceptible they become to long-term injuries, and with Kelce playing the role of someone who bides his time in both the trenches and across the middle of the defense, the bodies of tight ends, unfortunately, do not last forever.
The same can go for Jones, Clark, and Hill, who, at their various ages (26, 27, and 26, respectively) are able to justify their recent extensions now, but they still will be hard pills for the Chiefs to swallow if their play does not end up matching their deals before they run out.