Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s nearly 15-month reign as the NFL’s highest-paid player came to an end Monday as the Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs agreed to a new 10-year deal with MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes, though, didn’t just eke past Wilson as the highest-paid player in league history.
Instead, Mahomes agreed to a contract that shattered precedents, besting Wilson’s deal by more than $10 million a year, officially signing a contract reported by Ian Rapaport of NFL Network to be worth up to $503 million with $477 million in what he referred to as “guarantee mechanisms.” Rapoport said the Chiefs have to guarantee Mahomes’ salary “a year out” each season or cut him, which would allow him to become a free agent.
The deal includes $450 million in new money over 10 years (with the contract officially starting after the 2021 season). That will give Mahomes an average of $45 million per year from 2022-2031, blowing past the $35 million per year of Wilson (and roughly $40 million per year for the life of the deal). Reports further stated $140 million was guaranteed at signing, a figure that intriguingly matches the total of Wilson’s deal with the Seahawks (though one report stated the guarantee at signing is actually $141.4 million).
Wilson signed a four-year deal worth $140 million in April 2019, which technically takes effect this year, running through the 2023 season.
The deal makes Mahomes the NFL’s highest-paid player and marks the largest contract for any athlete in American sports, surpassing Angels outfielder Mike Trout’s 12-year, $426.5 million deal signed in March 2019.
Rapoport further reported that the deal has outs if the guarantees are not exercised and that Mahomes also has a no-trade clause.
Wilson also was one of the few players in NFL history to get a no-trade clause when he signed with Seattle last year.
Mahomes, who turns 25 in September, is under contract to the Chiefs through the 2031 season. He had one season remaining on his original four-year rookie contract, and the team previously exercised its fifth-year option for the 2021 season.
Mahomes is to make $27.6 million over the next two seasons, nearly $2.8 million this season and just more than $24.8 million in the 2021 season.
More details of Mahomes’ deal figure to roll in over the next day or so, but initial reports stated it does not have any clauses tied to the salary cap, meaning that if the cap rose more than anticipated then the contract would rise, as well. That was something Wilson’s camp also floated last year with the Seahawks but did not ultimately end up getting.
That it’s a 10-year deal stunned many around the NFL, where the recent trend has been more for shorter contracts. It’s just the sixth 10-year deal in league history, according to CBSSports.com, and the first since Michael Vick with Atlanta in 2004 (all the others who signed 10-year deals also were quarterbacks — Drew Bledsoe and Brett Favre with the Patriots and Packers in 2001, Donovan McNabb with the Eagles in 2002 and Daunte Culpepper with the Vikings in 2003; all were 10-year deals other than Culpepper’s, which was for 12).
But there are few players like Mahomes, who at a young age has quickly emerged as one of the defining faces in the league, leading the Chiefs to the Super Bowl triumph last season over the San Francisco 49ers and named the league’s MVP after throwing for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns.
“Patrick Mahomes is the future face of the NFL,” said sports business consultant Marc Ganis, who has close ties to the league and several NFL teams. “He is the leader of the next generation. He is the one person who makes the Kansas City Chiefs a team of national prominence.”
The contract will have obvious implications on those of other quarterbacks who will sign in the future. Two notable QBs who are still working on new deals with their teams are Deshaun Watson of Houston and Dak Prescott of Dallas.
It also might show that the Seahawks were wise to get a deal done with Wilson when they did, getting it completed mere minutes before a deadline that Wilson’s camp set of April 15, 2019.
Both Prescott and Watson could get deals that would move Wilson farther down the quarterback pay scale.
But that’s also one reason that Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, has said he preferred for Wilson to get four-year deals each of the two times he has re-signed with Seattle (first in 2015 and then again last year), allowing him the chance to again hit free agency more quickly.
That won’t occur until the end of the 2023 season, though, and an awful lot could happen between now and then, meaning the Seahawks for now can join the rest of the NFL in simply marveling at Mahomes’ deal without having to worry yet about how it could impact them down the road.
Mark Maske of The Washington Post contributed to this report.