After Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed a record-setting 10-year extension worth up to $503 million July 6, all eyes turned to the NFL’s other young quarterbacks who are soon due for a payday.
The Dallas Cowboys were negotiating with Dak Prescott for months leading up to the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players to sign long-term deals. Now, Houston’s Deshaun Watson could be next in line for a new deal. And while those signal-callers will get significant pay increases at some point, one young star — Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson — has his eyes set on Mahomes-type money.
“I’ve got to get where he’s at,” Jackson told ESPN July 13.
The dual-threat quarterback, coming off a MVP campaign, is entering his third year in the league and is eligible for a new deal after the 2020 season. But while it is possible that his future deal challenges the salary record, at least one former general manager believes Mahomes’ deal was an exception rather than a trend.
“This is really more of a cap than a stepping stone,” former New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins general manager Randy Mueller said on Glenn Clark Radio July 9. “I think it’s accepted that Pat Mahomes is the top of the class. I don’t see these guys getting that far.”
Jackson is halfway through his four-year, $9.47 million rookie deal, though the Ravens can pick up a fifth-year option for the 2022 season. The 2018 first round pick out of Louisville has done more than enough to eventually earn a raise. In his first full season as the starting quarterback in 2019, Jackson led the Ravens to a record-setting year. He passed for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns while running for 1,206 yards and seven scores, en route to being named just the second unanimous MVP in NFL history after Tom Brady.
But Mahomes has been even better. The 24-year-old has thrown for nearly 10,000 yards in just 31 regular-season games and was named league MVP in 2018 after passing for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns. After another strong regular season in 2019, Mahomes turned it on in the playoffs, accounting for over 1,000 all-purpose yards and 12 scores as he led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl victory against the San Francisco 49ers. Mahomes was named MVP of that game.
So Mueller believes the deals for Prescott and Watson — which could be completed before Jackson is eligible to negotiate a new contract after the 2020 season — will be more indicative of the Baltimore quarterback’s true value. Mahomes is widely regarded as a unique, generational talent and the best quarterback in the league, and Mueller said it is generally agreed upon that no other player will receive that kind of money.
“I think the players and agents accept that Mahomes is the best, so they may ask for [that type of money], but they know the answer coming back,” he said.
Former agent and current CBS Sports NFL salary cap analyst Joel Corry agrees. He said he believes no one will catch up to Mahomes money-wise, and these “next man up” deals — in which player salaries continually increase based on the market value of past contracts — could go by the wayside due to this extension’s extreme nature.
As such, Corry has some reservations about the deal for both sides. The extension doesn’t kick in until after the 2021 season, there is a full no-trade clause and there are no team options to release the 2017 first-round pick in case of injury or poor play. Much of the money in the deal is in roster bonuses and guarantees that take effect on the third day of the season, providing “unusual security” for Mahomes, Corry said.
But the cash flow for Mahomes is not maximized, and the contract’s value will depreciate over time as the salary cap increases, Corry said. A bit more than $63 million is guaranteed at signing, with the rest of the payments triggered by bonuses and specific clauses. Therefore, the contract could be undervalued as time goes on.
“If you’re trying to maximize your income over your entire career, which most players do, shorter is better,” he said on GCR July 8.
Mueller has a more positive outlook on the deal and sees it as a win-win for Kansas City and Mahomes. The Chiefs were able to secure their best player early, which gives them a clearer roadmap in building their franchise for the long term. They got started with that July 14, signing star defensive lineman Chris Jones to a four-year, $85 million contract. Mahomes, meanwhile, was able to get paid while receiving long-term stability with a winning organization.
Jackson will be seeking all of that on his next deal, presumably with Baltimore. The Ravens may try to secure the Pompano Beach, Fla., native for a long-term contract, but Corry cautions that Jackson’s style as a running quarterback brings a major injury risk, and he said it would make more sense for Baltimore to sign him to a shorter deal to mitigate that threat.
Still, Jackson is a unique talent who will become one of the league’s highest-paid players in another year or two. But despite his value, it will be difficult to justify a record-setting extension for the 23-year-old, Corry said.
“This [contract] is Patrick Mahomes-specific in terms of the sheer average [and length],” Corry said. “This deal’s going to be more of an anomaly than starting a new trend.”
For more from Mueller, listen to the full interview here:
For more from Corry, listen to the full interview here:
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