Let’s first clarify what we are not talking about: some eventual replacement of Mahomes sometime in the 2030s or beyond at the twilight of Mahomes’ illustrious career. That day hopefully will not come for a very long time, and no one needs to spend any time in the present worried about such a moment.
Instead, the Chiefs will at some point in the near future begin the ever-so-often selection(s) of developmental quarterbacks on the roster. They’ll do so for a number of reasons, which we’ll get into in a second, and Mahomes will be entrusted with a new role at his position: mentor/leader. The only question is not if but when this sort of transaction will take place.
Heading into this offseason, the Chiefs are looking at Mahomes as a true veteran for the first time. He’s now a fourth-year starter in the league playing into his mammoth extension. The rookie jitters are far behind him. He’s enjoyed a full season of watching and waiting and then three more seasons of absolutely demolishing any and all expectations for what a quarterback should be able to do. He’s shattered myriad records along the way and already looks like an inevitable lock for the Hall of Fame even with only three seasons under his belt.
The K.C. Chiefs should begin to think about drafting another young quarterback.
Mahomes has already played—and won—on the biggest stages afforded him. He’s signed the biggest contract in American sports history. He’s Kansas City’s favorite son while simultaneously serving as the face of the new NFL. Now it’s time to talk about his backups.
Coming into this season, the Chiefs have Chad Henne on the final year of a two-year deal. That’s it. Even then, Henne is only getting older and he’s very, very cheap in 2021 at a $1.625 million cap hit. (That’s nearly a quarter of what Chase Daniel makes, for the sake of comparison.) Beyond this year, however, Henne is off the books and the Chiefs have no more quarterback financials to discuss beyond that. It’s Mahomes and nothing else.
Now, the Chiefs do have a couple developmental arms on the roster, players who signed reserve/futures contracts back in the winter who are now on the 90-man roster once the new league year begins later this month. Technically both Jordan Ta’amu and Anthony Gordon will be competing for a roster spot this spring and summer as well, but any real attempt to drum up the potential of either is likely wishful thinking. That’s not personal against either player, but these are long shot players for various reasons.
Remember this: every year the Chiefs bring in someone like Gordon or Ta’amu. Some vocal members of Chiefs Kingdom online are overly excited by Ta’amu in particular, but the reality is that these positions are a revolving door of forgettable players. In a quarterback-needy league, these are the guys who still couldn’t earn a draft pick. In the past, the Chiefs have trotted out the likes of Kyle Shurmur, Chase Litton, Joel Stave, Tyler Bray and more.
Instead, there are a number of reasons why it makes sense for the Chiefs to think about using draft assets on the same position at which they are the most secure. No one is asking for a first-round pick here by any means, but it makes for general manager Brett Veach to keep his finger on the pulse of quarterbacks in this year’s draft and beyond.
Let’s all be clear: Patrick Mahomes has come up hurt in each of the last two seasons, so let’s not pretend that QB2 isn’t already important in Kansas City. In 2020, we saw Mahomes deal with an ankle injury, turf toe, and a concussion. In 2019, Matt Moore started two games midseason against the toughest teams from the NFC North because we all watched a Chiefs trainer move Mahomes’ kneecap back into place while lying on the field of play.
Mahomes is superhuman in his heroics and very human in his fragility. It’s the reason why anyone and everyone who likes the Chiefs—or even entertaining football—is begging the team to invest in their offensive line.
Moving forward, it’s very likely that whoever is listed behind Mahomes from year to year is going to be asked to play to varying degrees. The Chiefs can certainly keep filling the slot with veterans every year or two. That’s fine. But what’s clear is that QB2 or even QB3 for that matter aren’t meaningless positions in K.C. The Chiefs very much need some positional security from someone, which leads us here.
Take advantage of Andy Reid
One of the greatest assets held by the Chiefs at this time is found in head coach Andy Reid. He’s known as a quarterback whisperer for good reason, and he’s a creative genius, which is why teams have been quick to hire his proteges for head coaching positions (at least until Eric Bieniemy is on deck, but that’s a frustrating subject for another time). The single reason why the Chicago Bears likely hired Matt Nagy was to right the Mitchell Trubisky ship before it sank. (Sorry, Chicago.)
Any quarterback drafted by the Chiefs would immediately begin to learn from the very best in the game: the best coach and the best player. It would be a dream for any young quarterback who needed some time to work on his game. Take a raw quarterback prospect who has all the intangibles but maybe lacks the experience or decision-making to be taken near the top of the draft. The Chiefs could mold such a player into a true asset, someone who could step in at key moments if Mahomes were ever indisposed. It would also be important for another reason
A desired asset
While the Chiefs would enjoy positional security with a developmental arm on deck, perhaps the most important part of draft-and-develop is about the future tradability of such a player. The Green Bay Packers did this under Ron Wolf and beyond. The New England Patriots have been shipping off their backup quarterbacks for years when Tom Brady was in house. The Chiefs should absolutely undertake this same approach in order to best leverage their assets.
If Bill Belichick can build a mystique around Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett and others, then imagine what other general managers will think of getting their hands on some developmental quarterback who has soaked in the Chiefs’ approach for a couple apprenticing years. It’s hard to imagine the Chiefs wouldn’t recoup their original draft investment and more in the process.
Not only would drafting a developmental arm take care of any concerns behind Mahomes in case of an emergency, but it would also begin the draft-and-develop process of giving the Chiefs tradable assets in the future at the game’s most important position. Given the cheap contract in the final year for Henne, 2021 is the first year that really makes sense for the Chiefs to go this route if the right prospect sits on their draft board. It might not happen this spring, but sometime soon, the Chiefs will begin to add another young quarterback and move Mahomes firmly into the veteran leader role.