Patrick Mahomes knew what he wanted. He knew what mattered to him. And he didn’t care what anyone else viewed as the “normal” or “smart” way to handle his business.
Conventional has never ranked among the adjectives used to describe the Kansas City Chiefs’ reigning Super Bowl MVP and 2018 NFL MVP, who is not yet even 25 years of age.
So it should have come as no surprise when the quarterback signed a contract that not only shattered all kinds of records for NFL players but pro athletes as a whole.
It’s fitting that Mahomes, in agreeing to a deal that will pay him up to $503 million over the next 12 years, would become the first half-a-billion-dollar athlete in U.S. sports history.
The Chiefs made a big statement about Mahomes’ worth to the organization and their commitment to him.
But as he and his agents approached the negotiation table this offseason, Mahomes found it important to make a statement of his own. It wasn’t that he sees himself as the best football player in the NFL or the best athlete in the world.
He wanted to convey how greatly he values his situation. That’s why he defied conventional wisdom. Many young NFL stars opt for four- or five-year contracts that position them to revisit the ever-inflating market while still in their primes and maximize long-term financial security.
But as far as Mahomes was concerned, why worry about the next payday when you can command more than a decade’s worth of elite-level paydays and generational wealth in one fell swoop?
As he considered his future, Mahomes concluded that he has everything he ever wanted right in front of him.
“More than anything, Patrick wanted to make a statement about his long-term commitment to the family of chairman Clark Hunt, the Kansas City Chiefs organization, his teammates, and the city of Kansas City,” one of his agents, Leigh Steinberg, told USA TODAY Sports Tuesday morning. “The Chiefs are the team he always wants to play for, and Kansas City is the community he always wants to be a part of. From draft day on, this has always been a marriage made in heaven.”
Whenever a star athlete lands a mega contract, the public scrambles to dissect all of the fine print to differentiate the real money and monopoly money, and to determine whether or not said athlete made a smart decision.
Even as eye-popping as Mahomes’ deal is, there are some who point out that the two-time Pro Bowl selection could be leaving money on the table.
But in truth, not only did Mahomes understand the market, he also understood the power that he holds. He knows the Chiefs view him as a generational talent whom opponents would try to lure away if he became a free agent before his 30th birthday.
That understanding enabled him to command a contract that exceeds Russell Wilson’s previously league-leading average salary of $35 million by another $10 million annually.
And because of Mahomes’ confidence in his own abilities and the decision-making of Chiefs management, he also didn’t feel the sense of paranoia that makes some athletes desperate to ensure the flexibility to manipulate his competitive situation every few years.
Self-belief positioned Mahomes and his team to pursue a baseball-like contract – fitting given the fact that his father, Patrick Mahomes Sr., pitched in the Major Leagues for 11 years.
Mahomes leveraged his way into a rare deal that’s virtually impossible for the Chiefs to get out of because of the upfront money, roster bonuses from 2025 to 2031 that total $218.8 million and a clause that prevents any trade unless the quarterback himself approves.
Another pressing matter beyond long-term security kept popping up in Mahomes’ mind during the early stages of the negotiation process.
“How do we win more Super Bowls?” he repeatedly asked his agents.
He wanted to ensure that his contract didn’t follow the path of many other quarterback deals, leaving the cupboards so bare that their teams struggled to surround them with talent.
So the Chiefs and Mahomes’ agents successfully structured the deal in a way that still leaves the team with reasonable salary cap room for years.
“Obviously, I wanted the security to take care of my family and future generations of my family,” Mahomes explained at his Tuesday news conference before also expressing joy over being able to further invest in the Kansas City community. “But I want to keep great football players around me. I’d be lying if I sat here and said it doesn’t help me having great players all around me on the field. I knew this would be the right way to do it, to accomplish both things that are important to me.”
In the words of Mahomes, his agent, and Chiefs brass, trust shone through as the strongest element throughout the negotiation process.
There was pre-existing trust shared between the Hunt family and Steinberg, who has treasured a friendship with the Chiefs’ owners ever since they drafted his first NFL client (fourth-rounder Mark Bailey) in 1977, his first first-round pick (guard Brad Budde) in 1980 and others, including eventual Hall of Famers Derrick Thomas (1989) and Tony Gonzalez (1997).
The trust extended to Steinberg’s business partner Chris Cabott, who did much of the heavy-lifting on the negotiations, and Chiefs general manager Brett Veach, who developed a friendship with Cabott a decade ago when he was a scout with the Eagles.
And trust between Mahomes and Reid, who developed the quarterback from a rookie backup to one of the league’s biggest stars a year later, was also crucial.
With a singular focus, the two camps got the deal done in what Reid described as “a win-win for the player and the organization.”
Said Mahomes, “There’s trust amongst everybody. As much as I trust in them, they trust in me, and we were able to get this contract done the right way. Not that it just gives me the security I’ve always wanted but also allows the team to be great around me my full career. I trust things will be handled the right way and we will be in position to win a lot of football games, and hopefully a lot more championships, as my career goes on.”
There’s just something different about Patrick Mahomes. As an athlete, as a quarterback, a leader, and as a businessman. He does it his way. In breath-taking fashion. And he leaves no room for doubt about his excellence and commitment.