A closer look at Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s rookie contract with Chiefs

LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Let’s take a closer look at the rookie contract for Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

On Monday, news leaked that the Kansas City Chiefs had reached a verbal agreement on the first professional contracts for each of their six drafted rookies. The signings meant that every rookie could report to the team on time to be tested for COVID-19, the first of two such tests each player must go through before being cleared for training camp activities with the Chiefs.

The brightest spotlight of the Chiefs rookie class will undoubtedly fall on former Louisiana State running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, given that he was the team’s first round selection of the 2020 NFL Draft. In addition, Edwards-Helaire was the first running back taken in the entire class and he’s the newest addition to an offense that already scorches NFL defenses on a regular basis.

It’s interesting to look at the finances of Edwards-Helaire’s rookie deal and what it means for the Chiefs going forward. Unfortunately for the running back, rookie contracts are already given preset amounts via the slotted system as dictated by the league’s collective bargaining agreement. This means that Edwards-Helaire’s representatives knew all along what he would receive.

Edwards-Helaire is set to make $10.82 million over the next four seasons in Kansas City. The years break down like this:

  • 2020: $1.97 million
  • 2021: $2.46 million
  • 2022: $2.95 million
  • 2023: $3.44 million

For those four seasons, Edwards-Helaire will average just over $2.7 million per season. Among current running back contracts, Edwards-Helaire’s average cost to the Chiefs ranks him at No. 27 overall. Fellow running back Damien Williams comes in at No. 29 overall at $2.5 million per year, which shows the range the Chiefs apparently like to stay at given their current roster makeup. Of course, many of these deals are one-year deals and the Chiefs are committed for four seasons, but it’s clear that Edwards-Helaire’s contract is meant to provide cheap production for a team with so many other expensive parts.

It’s interesting to look at Edwards-Helaire’s slight escalation in cost and how that lines up with the Chiefs cap over those same seasons. Sammy Watkins and his $17 million contract is scheduled to come off the books in 2021. Travis Kelce is scheduled to hit free agency in 2022, as are both offensive tackles in Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Tyreek Hill will be free of his current contract in 2023.

Basically, for each of the next few seasons, one key offensive component to the Chiefs brilliant offense is scheduled to come off the books. It’s possible (and even likely) that general manager Brett Veach steps in and extends one or more of those players depending on the cost and production—e.g. it’s hard to see Kelce being allowed to play anywhere else—but the Chiefs also have a bit of comfort in knowing that they can plan accordingly and still count on reliable stars to keep the train moving even as parts are being replaced.

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