Patrick Mahomes’ $503 Million Contract Is Even More Groundbreaking Than You Think

Patrick Mahomes is likely going to be with the Kansas City Chiefs for most, maybe all, of his career. Long contracts are often associated with being overly generous for the owners, rather than the athlete, so Mahomes’ announcement understandably raised some eyebrows. Sure, his half a billion-dollar contract wasn’t ever going to leave him in the poor house. But did he get every penny he is likely to be worth if he’s tying his fate to one franchise?

The Last Dance brought these worries to the forefront. Scottie Pippen had to be one of the most underpaid players in the league compared to the huge profits his talent brought to the Bulls ownership. His contract was worth millions, the kind of money anyone would be tempted to take at a glance. But upon further examination, Mahomes might have hammered out a rare feat: an expensive contract that makes both sides happy.

The media and fan reaction to Patrick Mahomes’ massive contract

Mahomes is a special player. His talent is of a generational level, and everyone in sports media knew it. So once his blockbuster 10-year, $503 million deal became public, the reaction was somewhat unexpected.

Rather than the usual polarizing response of people simply staking out a position of “too much” or “too little,” most commentators decided to dive into the details.

First, there’s the length. It’s not what NFL contracts almost ever look like, certainly not in the last couple of decades. USA Today reports that many, including other NFL players, compared it to a baseball contract. Long term, lucrative, guaranteed.

But NBC Sports points out that Mahomes might’ve undervalued his short term earnings somewhat. Had he followed a contract more like Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill, he could’ve guaranteed more money in the next few years while leaving negotiations open for an even bigger take upon re-signing. This is the strange nature of Mahomes’ utterly unique contract negotiation process.

The behind-the-scenes dealings

A piece from Sports Illustrated revealed just how unprecedented contract the process was from the perspective of Patrick Mahomes’ camp. Mahomes came to his agents with a mandate based around his desire to stay in Kansas City, and with the Chiefs organization, simply because he likes working and playing there.

He likes his coach, the jovial veteran Andy Reid. Mahomes also likes the team’s owners, on a personal level. He knows both of these factors aren’t a given, and are often rare, because of his father’s experiences as a pro baseball player. And he also loves Kansas City itself, a mid-sized city with a friendly small-town feel.

That put Mahomes’ team in a difficult position, one that is normally a recipe for a bad contract. They had to keep Mahomes’ needs close to their chest, while also obviously pushing to keep him with the Chiefs for as long as possible. Mahomes’ team also had the fate of other QBs around the NFL in their hands, to an extent. They knew this would set a new precedent for young, proven talent at the position.

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That need to balance Mahomes’ needs with pushing for the biggest deal possible led to a contract of the type almost never seen in the NFL. Not since the days of Donovan McNabb has it been a given that great players will push for lengthy runs over repeated re-negotiations. For Mahomes to break that up, it meant devising a contract that benefits him just as much as his team.

In fact, the Chiefs could potentially come out ahead on the deal. Only 13.2% of Mahomes’ contract is guaranteed at signing. The rest requires meeting playing time requirements and other incentives.

Let’s swing back to Tannehill’s deal, which Yahoo! Sports compares to Mahomes’: Tannehill is guaranteed 52.5% of his four-year deal no matter what happens. Mahomes shows no signs of failing to meet most of his incentives, but 10 years is a very long time. The Chiefs are likely just as happy about this contract as their newly rich young QB is.

By taking way less guaranteed money, Mahomes could be setting a new precedent for star quarterback contracts.