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What Patrick Mahomes’ deal means for the Arizona Cardinals’ QB situation

What does the Super Bowl MVP’s deal mean for the Cards and a potential Kyler Murray extension?

NBA: All Star-Saturday Night Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

By now almost everyone who follows the NFL has heard the news, so I’ll skip over the basics and just focus on this:

Mahomes was drafted in 2017 and has had maybe the greatest start to a career of any professional athlete. But what he’s done also is set now a new benchmark for a Franchise Quarterback’s second deal in the NFL.

His yearly cap hit will be for the first 3 years $7 million, $24 million and then $31 million before it shoots into the stratosphere.

Around an average of $45 million per year. With a maximum of 59 million (!) cap hit in 2027 (I’ll be 35 years old by then...welp).

What’s most interesting about this deal?

First off, let me break down exactly what contracts in the NFL and football are used for as I had it explained to me when I worked for an AFL team as to what a contract REALLY means:

1. What is the true value of the player vs. the “PR” value of the signing?

2. What are the outs for player/team?

3. How much $ is a team forced to pay out to a player in a specific year & can’t move around?

The first one is the easy one—ever seen players who sign a $50 million, 5 year deal only to look at it and realize that it’s really a $25 million, 3 year deal w/ 2 voidable years at the end?

Whatever the value of a product is....determined by what someone is actually willing to pay for it. Not what they’ll SAY they’re willing to pay for it. (Now art pieces and houses that are potentially used in money laundering schemes are another story but let’s stick to football here)

If the player was worth that much, likely, they’d be getting that in guaranteed money.

Heck, just look at the David Johnson contract. He only went through 2 years of his deal and the Cardinals didn’t even pay the 3rd and final guaranteed year of it because his value went down drastically.

What this contract showed is that Mahomes’ deal, essentially, is worth and it’s NOT the half a billion dollars.

It’s the $140 million guaranteed for injury.

Looking at the above contract details, Mahomes is due $103 million by next March, and then the year after that the cap jumps up to where you see around $140 million will be guaranteed and paid out for him.

Translation: if he suddenly takes a nosedive, gets hurt, etc. that’s all that the Chiefs have to pay out.

After that? Either he keeps the current deal on a year-to-year basis or renegotiates for a better one, and that leads to point #2:

What are the outs for a team/player?

For Mahomes, it’s that he’s tied to the franchise (aka they’d have to cut him for him to make less) for pretty much forever....but he also doesn’t have to keep this deal if he wants to try to negotiate for a bigger or better one.

After the $140 million guaranteed is up, Mahomes might not be due any more money if the team chose to cut him. So he can therefore ask for a new deal and a new set of injury guarantees (note that this the current DeAndre Hopkins scenario with the Cardinals) in 3 years time.

In that sense, the dude wouldn’t have wanted to watch the cap go up and up and not be able to get a new deal. While the Chiefs wouldn’t have wanted to lock in to more than 4-5 years MAXIMUM down the road.

They have outs versus it being a ‘fully guaranteed’ deal like many say. Sure it’s long as he’s on the roster and not hurt. If the Chiefs cut him, it wouldn’t be, and that’s the key.

The final point is how important a player is to the team aka % of the salary cap. We’ve seen this in action w/ Larry Fitzgerald. As he’s taken $11 million per year, the cap has expanded, and the % of the cap that Fitz has taken up has gotten smaller. In short, team flexibility and spending power isn’t how much you’re giving to players but rather how important they are compared to other players.

Fitzgerald’s importance has notably grown lesser year over year, in accordance w/ his role as a receiver on the team, that makes some sense (even if being the emotional center means a lot more).

With teams recently, when they’ve signed their QB’s to megadeals suddenly they go from like 7% of the cap to 30% of the cap hit and it takes a bit of time to adjust. Draft picks become more important, and that’ll be the case in KC, too.

But with a new CBA passed and new TV revenue dollars on the horizon, I wouldn’t be shocked if Mahomes’ current $45 million a year average (which is of $246,499,621) is 20% of cap room. Basically 1/5th of their cap space, not counting draft picks or dead money or extra room left over.

Buuuuut if the CBA pushes that $240 million a year to say $300 million a year by 2021 well then wouldn’t Mahomes’ deal be only 15%?

Yup. Essentially that extra 5% of cap room as the cost goes up would mean that a deal done now is money saved in the future.

SO...after this lengthy diatribe, what does this mean for if Kyler Murray turns out to be a legit franchise quarterback?

First off, let’s assume that while he doesn’t go fully down the “Mahomes” route as far as winning a super bowl and MVP in his next two seasons (although that would be pretty swell) let’s assume that he goes the Lamar Jackson/Russell Wilson/Deshaun Watson/Carson Wentz route and becomes a bonafide star in the league getting a deal in the Age of Mahomes.

The key to this is...will the deal be the same? Or could taking up a % of an increasing salary cap instead end up being the ticket, as some speculated it could be for Mahomes?

The fact is that in Mahomes’ deal, he reserved the right to renegotiate his contract. He could push for a higher deal to still make 20% of the salary cap, for example.

But what if the deal was to make that to begin with as the cap rose? If that was the case, say the cap rises not to $300 million but instead to $350 million?

The money paid out would rise along with it. In short, you likely wouldn’t need to sign another deal if you’re a quarterback for “more money”. Rather, you’d just want to ensure it’s guaranteed. Or, you’d try to push for say 22% of the salary cap.

The fact that Mahomes himself couldn’t get that sort of deal tells me that NFL teams are very very reticent to do that. Doesn’t rule it out as a possibility for guys to get paid, however. Which could include Kyler Murray

The outs will end up looking very different for Kyler, as he will be getting his contract amidst the new CBA already being in full swing, and a new CBA would be some 4-5 years away still. So it’s possible that if he does get paid in a sort of “new highest paid player in the NFL” deal, that his $$$ situation would look different from Mahomes in terms of the guaranteed money.

Perhaps he’d want to push for 4-5 years rather than 3 given that his timeframe isn’t Pat’s. Or tying himself to his coach as, if all goes according to plan, Kliff Kingsbury’s extension wouldn’t be far behind his QB you’d have to assume, right?

Not bad for a baseball player. (Kyler didn’t even have to spend time in the minors!)

Or would he instead try to push for a % of the salary cap and then not worry about having to renegotiate a price?

No clue.

After all...

It’s only 1 year into this process, so it doesn’t do well to jump the shark. We still need to see if Murray can make the leap or not.

But it’s good to look at preparing for these sort of things because of the “window” that exists in the NFL for playing and paying. You’ll never make that sort of income when your career is over.

And finally, how valuable will he be in terms of the cap % and to the team?

Hard to say. You always see how the quarterback is the center and leader of a team, but they’re still defined by their accomplishments.

Look at the careers of Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Jared Goff and Andrew Luck. All 4 were number 1 picks.

Only 2 have been to a super bowl. None of them have won one, and two didn’t play football last year at all, one of them likely won’t this year.

The NFL is nothing if not unpredictable. Mahomes was paid for winning games and a ring. To get to that level of prestige to see a 12 year sort of deal that looks more like a baseball contract than a football one, Murray will have to take the leap many say he’s capable of making.

Could he make what Mahomes made? I think that or close to it, given that over the next few years more guys will get paid. It’s hard to make predictions now amidst Covid-19, of course, as the cap is likely shrinking for next year and no guarantee that it goes back up to what it was quite as quickly before. But...

He’s got the ability. Everyone’s said it and I think almost everyone believes it.

But going out and earning it, well, the only thing you can control in that area is yourself.