When Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed his long-term contract two years ago, it was obvious that his decade-plus commitment to the team would eventually become obsolete. It’s already happening.
Mahomes, who like anyone else wouldn’t tell the world that he may have made a mistake, defended the decision to commit for so long and, relative to others, so little by saying he’s set for life. Setting aside for now whether that’s the right attitude, the fact that Mahomes views his own situation gives the Chiefs a powerful tool.
Like the Patriots of the Tom Brady era, when the best player on the roster is consciously taking less than he deserves, it makes it easier for the team to squeeze other players on the team to do the same thing. That worked in New England. Is it working in Kansas City?
A couple of recent data points suggest it may not be. Receiver Tyreek Hill wanted more than the team was willing to pay him. He wasn’t willing to do a team-friendly deal simply because Mahomes did. So they traded Hill.
Then there’s tackle Orlando Brown, who pushed for much more than the team was willing to pay on a long-term deal to replace his franchise tag. The Mahomes-isn’t-making-market-value argument, whether expressly or implicitly communicated to Brown’s agent during negotiations, didn’t work.
As to Mahomes, who is signed through 2031, his contract will only become more glaring as the salary cap goes up and up, and lesser players make more and more. At some point, the team will need to fix the imbalance that already exists. That was one of the arguments made in defense of the contract when he signed the deal; at the right time, the Chiefs will fix it.
But will they? Only squeaky wheels get greased. If Mahomes isn’t squeaking, the Chiefs will feel no compulsion to give him a penny more than they are required to pay.
Should Mahomes want more? Ultimately, it’s his decision. And, yes, he’s set for life. But should anyone who reaches their “I’ve got enough until I croak” number start giving away their skills for less than they’re worth? Generational wealth ideally supports as many generations as possible. The owners know that, and they behave accordingly. The players should, too.
Besides, once Mahomes gets a lesson in estate taxes — which will take 40 percent of his money when he dies — he’ll possibly do the math and realize that he’ll be leaving roughly 30 cents on every leftover dollar earned to his kid(s). One of the only ways to counter this is to make as much money as possible, and to never take anything less than what he deserves.
As each new quarterback deal is done, it will become more clear that Mahomes is getting less than he deserves. Until his skills diminish to the point where the team won’t hesitate to reduce his annual compensation to zero dollars and zero cents.