The Kansas City Chiefs made a few moves at quarterback this week that tell us quite a bit.
It’s been a very busy week for the Kansas City Chiefs, and almost all of the team’s known activity has centered on a single position: quarterback. Of course, the obvious news is that they made their starting quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, the highest-paid player in U.S. professional sports. However, the moves went beyond that this week and it’s interesting to look at the bigger picture.
Just to remind everyone about the Chiefs transactions, they first signed Patrick Mahomes to a mind-blowing 10-year contract worth up to $503 million. That extension will be tacked onto the two years left on his rookie deal, which means that Mahomes has 12 more seasons on the books for the Chiefs.
Later on in the week, the Chiefs made some minor moves to the depth chart at quarterback. They brought back a familiar face in veteran Matt Moore, who started two games for the Chiefs just last season when Mahomes injured his knee, and released undrafted free agent quarterback Shea Patterson to create a roster spot.
Beyond Mahomes numbers
When it comes to Mahomes, for a franchise that has lacked any home-grown product at the position, the Chiefs now have their own drafted quarterback locked up for 15 total seasons if both sides see things all the way through. That’s pretty amazing. Consider this: if Mahomes finishes out this timeline with the Chiefs, he will have been the team’s starting quarterback for over 20 percent of the life span of the franchise. That’s quite an achievement for any team, let alone one that was so obviously scared to swing and miss in the first round at the position.
Much has already been written about Mahomes’ new contract, but it cannot be stated enough how important his role is for the Chiefs. He is the NFL’s most popular player—not just the team’s—which will keep the Chiefs (and, by proxy, the K.C. metro area) in the national spotlight for the next decade. Not only is Clark Hunt going to get rich by employing such a tremendous player and performer, but the entire region will benefit from the influx of tourists and the awareness and promotion provided by being on primetime television so often in years to come.
The trust placed in Mahomes by the Chiefs with this record-setting deal also says plenty about Mahomes as a person. It’s one thing to trust him as a player who is somehow able to overcome steep deficits when it matters most. It’s another thing to set such lofty expectations upon the shoulders of a 24-year-old who is still learning the nuances of his position. He is not yet a family man. He is still young and boyish. Yet the Chiefs believe he can be trusted to evolve and grow under the brightest lights—even off the field.
For those of us who only receive glimpses of Mahomes’ personality, it’s reassuring to see those who know him most are the ones who trust him most.
The dream of every NFL general manager is to be set at quarterback in one of two ways. First (and most obviously), a team needs to have the right answer at the position, a franchise face who can lead the team to contention every season. From there, every team would also love to have an exciting developmental arm waiting in the wings. While no one wants to see the starter go down, every team would like to be prepared and, if nothing else, the backup could turn into a nice trade asset.
For the Chiefs, their chances of fulfilling such a dream this season have taken a back seat to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, the starting position is locked down for the foreseeable future (and then some). From there, the team has been content to roll with veteran backups while Mahomes was so young and inexperienced. Chad Henne and Matt Moore have been the two vets in orbit around Mahomes as backups, while the likes Joel Stave, Kyle Shurmur, Chase Litton, Jordan Ta’amu and Shea Patterson have served as camp arms or minicamp signings.
While the Chiefs are likely to experiment with bringing in a younger arm at QB in the near future, perhaps even drafting one, this season they are pulling out of any real development efforts altogether. The release of Patterson leaves only Ta’amu as the untested, unpolished quarterback who will need coaching up. Even then, the presence of both Henne and Moore going forward means he’s going to be a practice squad player only.
The Chiefs know what they have in Mahomes, but they also know exactly what they have in Henne and Moore. This is not a competition to see which backup can win. This is about knowing that security is at a premium for the 2020 season knowing that a still-young virus can sideline any player at any time. Even two veteran quarterbacks were not enough for the Chiefs this year. They wanted even QB3 to be someone who could come in, start a game, and not miss a beat on offense.
Ta’amu might someday be an impressive young player, but there’s no reason to count on that any more than Shurmur, Litton, or Stave were supposed to be promising. The Chiefs know they cannot rely on Ta’amu to do anything in the 2020 season and so they’re not even leaving the door open for that scenario to turn into a reality, even with the rarest odds. Instead the Chiefs have fortified the position that already had the most talent. That says plenty about how teams are viewing the upcoming season.