KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fewer than three years ago, Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year, $450 million contract extension that made him the highest-paid player in the NFL. After a flurry of new contracts for star quarterbacks, including recent deals for Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts, that $45 million per year now ranks No. 7 for the annual average value.
Does Mahomes feel underpaid? Not exactly.
“Obviously, I want to do the best for myself as well,” Mahomes said after the team’s practice Wednesday. “But at the same time, I’ve always said I worry about legacy and winning rings more than making money at this moment.”
Yet he’s also not oblivious to the happenings around the league when three of his counterparts – Jackson ($52 million), Hurts ($51 million) and Aaron Rodgers ($50.3 million) make more money an annual average value. Mahomes said he and his agent Chris Cabott remain in contact with the Chiefs regularly on the status of his current deal that runs through 2031.
“We see what’s going on around the league,” Mahomes said. “But at the same time, I’ll never do anything that’s going to hurt us from keeping the great players around me. So it’s kind of teetering around that line.”
That line is important to Mahomes, and it’s not only about himself. His remarks on Wednesday suggest he’s heard the criticism from corners around the league that he owes a responsibility to other players to push the boundaries of the market while he’s among the biggest boldfaced names in the league.
“You just want to do whatever to not hurt other quarterbacks whenever their contracts come up,” Mahomes explained. “You want to kind of keep the bar pushing. And so it’s not about being the highest-paid guy. It’s not about making a ton of money. I’ve made enough money where I’ll be set for the rest of my life. But at the same time, you got to find that line where you’re making a good amount of money, but you’re still keeping a lot of great players around you so you can win these Super Bowls and you’re able to compete in these games.”
Walking that line is tricky, he acknowledges.
“I think you see the guys that are getting paid this last offseason they’re trying to find that right spot,” Mahomes said. “Everybody wants to get paid a lot of money, and whenever they think they’re the best at their craft, they want to get paid, paid like that.”
Mahomes also pointed toward the contracts of teammates such as defensive tackle Chris Jones, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and tight end Travis Kelce among his concerns. Jones is seeking a long-term extension from the Chiefs, and Sneed is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Kelce is signed through 2025 but the Chiefs have restructured his contract several times to add new money and create salary cap space.
“I understand you look at the team and you know you got guys like Chris and Sneed and even Travis, all these guys that you need to keep around you to have these great teams,” Mahomes said. “But at the same time, you want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. We have open communication, I think that’s the biggest thing, and you see that from Clark, you see that from coach Reid, you see that from Veach and everybody. We just try to make sure that we have the best team on that football field and everybody gets what they deserve.”
Chris Jones Absent
The least surprising absence for the Chiefs during OTAs this week was that of defensive tackle Chris Jones, who is entering the final year of a four-year, $80 million extension signed in July 2020 and seeking another new extension before this season.
Skipping the voluntary OTAs isn’t new to Jones. He sat out last year’s OTA workouts before reporting to the team’s mandatory minicamp in June. He also skipped both OTAs and the minicamp in 2020 before signing his extension but he was not under contract to the club at the time.
If Jones skips the mandatory minicamp, he would rack up fines of nearly $100,000. He’s also put his $500,000 workout bonus at risk by missing the voluntary workouts. Jones is slated to earn $19.5 million in base salary this season, however, so the fines and lost bonus money equate to just 3% of his schedule earnings this season. If the Chiefs and Jones reach a deal on a new contract, the upfront and guaranteed money will swamp that lost money.
A handful of veterans didn’t take part in Wednesday’s workout, including starting cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie. Both players were on the practice field and participated in the stretch period as well as taking mental reps on the sideline but did not participate in individual or team drills. Reid didn’t elaborate on the reason why the pair were held out of practice.
“I’m not going to get into all the injuries but yeah, they’re just going easy, easing them back,” he said.
Sneed battled several injuries last season, including a hip injury and bruised nose in January while spending time in the league’s concussion protocol leading up to Super Bowl LVII. McDuffie missed six games due to a hamstring injury.
Absent from Wednesday’s practice were running backs Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon, tight end Jody Fortson and defensive tackles Derrick Nnadi and Tershawn Wharton. Wharton finished last season on injured reserve due to a torn ACL and isn’t expected back until training camp. Pacheco is recovering from offseason surgeries for a torn labrum in his shoulder and a broken hand. Fortson suffered a subluxation in his elbow late in the season but returned from injured reserve during the playoffs.
It’s not known if McKinnon or Nnadi are dealing with injuries or had other reasons for missing the voluntary workout.
First-round defensive end Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who was limited during the club’s rookie minicamp earlier this month with a hand injury – appeared to be a full participant Wednesday. The team is not required to provide injury reports during OTAs.
Developmental offensive lineman Chukwuebuka “Jason” Goddrick was also present at practice but did not participate in drills. The Nigerian native is part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program and has a roster exemption that excludes him from the 90-player limit.
Mostly sunny skies and temperatures reaching 80 degrees by the end of practice greeted the Chiefs on Wednesday for a largely routine “organized team practice activity,” otherwise known as OTAs.
“It’s good to get out and go against each other with the rules that are given and see the guys move around a little bit, compete,” Reid said.
This week marks the third phase of the league’s offseason program and the first opportunity in which both offensive and defensive units can be on the field at the same time. Players wear helmets but not pads so there is no full contact.
The workout included the standard conditioning period, individual drills, and a group installation period as well as a full-team session, a 7-on-7 period and special teams work for the punt and kickoff units.
Among the highlights on Wednesday:
- Mahomes delivered his usual sterling performance with precision in both the team periods and 7-on-7 work. Reid noted the determination of his quarterback during the offseason program: “He’s 100% in and going after it and challenges himself, he challenges the guys around him to be great on both sides of the ball. Everything’s alive out there and moving fast and as a head coach I appreciate that.”
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire received the bulk of the first-team running back work, and he made a tremendous catch downfield on a wheel route from Mahomes in 7-on-7 work. Reid has noted that Edwards-Helaire arrived for the offseason program in strong condition and that he’s looked quick and strong during practice this week.
- John Ross was the No. 9 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, one spot ahead of Mahomes, and illustrated why on Wednesday with his ankle-breaking speed and agility. Ross set an NFL Combine record with his time of 4.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and he’s a strong roster candidate if he can finally harness his natural talent.
- The absence of Sneed and McDuffie meant more work for other members of the young secondary, especially Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams and this year’s seventh-round selection Nic Jones. Jones is an intriguing candidate as a nickel back.
- The competition for the kick and punt return specialists jobs appears wide open heading to training camp, especially with the club likely reducing Isiah Pacheco’s kick return workload this season. Skyy Moore muffed a catch during the punt return period. Still, the club has many other candidates including newcomers Riche James and John Ross, rookie Nikko Remigio and the electric Kadarius Toney. Ihmir Smith-Marsette and rookie running back Deneric Prince are strong candidates for the kick-return job as well.
While Blaine Gabbert wasn’t an immediate success after entering the league as the No. 10 overall selection for Jacksonville in the 2011 NFL Draft, the 33-year-old has established himself as a coveted veteran backup after stints with San Francisco, Arizona, Tennessee and most recently three years in Tampa Bay backing up Tom Brady.
Mahomes was already familiar with Gabbert, a former teammate of retired Chiefs backup Chad Henne for two seasons in Jacksonville. “Chad spoke very highly of him,” Mahomes said.
“Since he’s been in the building, he’s been a true pro,” he added. “He’s come in, you can see the talent, you see why he was a top-10 draft pick, and the arm strength, everything like that. And he was just backing up at Tom, so I’m asking him for any advice he can give me because if you’re learning from that guy, you’re learning from the right guy. Just another good quarterback, good guy that can be in that quarterback room.”
Reid said the 6-foot-5 Gabbert stands out on the practice field in more ways than one.
“He’s smart, and he’s bigger than I thought he was,” Reid said. “Throws the ball, strong arm, has developed a good relationship with Pat, and look forward to seeing (in training camp), again, when things are going fast. Right now he’s making sure he knows where everybody’s at and has it down. You can tell he’s done it before.”
Reid says it’s not a prerequisite that the Chiefs enter the campaign with a seasoned veteran behind Mahomes, while also reserving praise for Shane Buechele and Chris Oladokun who are in the mix as well.
“I would tell you that if you can find a good veteran player if something were to happen to Pat, that if you have confidence in a guy, that’s not a bad way to go, just from experience sake at that spot,” Reid said. “We saw that with Chad when he had to play and did a nice job with it. But I think we have a couple of good young guys too back there.”
The Chiefs resume phase three workouts on May 30 with workouts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week. The practices are closed to the public. The club wraps up OTA practices June 6-9 followed by the mandatory minicamp June 13-15.