Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed a massive 10-year, $503 million contract extension on Monday, but how much of that money will he actually receive from the Chiefs?
While $140 million is fully guaranteed for injury and $106 million will be fully guaranteed by March, Mahomes gets $477 million in "guarantee mechanisms" over the life of the deal.
...So what exactly does that mean? Let's break it down.
Essentially, this structure creates a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option for the Chiefs around 2025 and beyond. Mahomes' money becomes fully guaranteed, as Peliserro put it, "a year or two before [it's] due," meaning that the Chiefs could move on from Mahomes after the 2026 season, as his cap number will be nearly $60 million in 2027, but that 2027 cap number would have already been guaranteed the previous year. This creates a system where the Chiefs could release Mahomes without paying out the full value of his contract (which would be the case if the deal was fully-guaranteed), but because of these "guarantee mechanisms," Mahomes would still make his salary for the first year that the Chiefs would be playing without him.
In reality, something truly terrible would have to happen for the Chiefs to see that move as a viable option. Bill Barnwell broke down this mechanism on ESPN.com:
"The benefit of this sort of structure for Mahomes is to make it more difficult for the Chiefs to cut him," Barnwell writes. "As an example, let's say Mahomes tears up his shoulder in 2027 and misses the remainder of the season, and Kansas City decides that it's better to move on. (I don't want to live in this example, and I suspect most Chiefs fans would prefer to opt out too.) He is due $44.5 million between his base salary, roster bonus and workout bonus in 2028, which guarantees before the 2027 season begins. If the Chiefs wanted to cut him, they would still owe him all of that $44.5 million for 2028, even though he wasn't on the roster. While $44.5 million won't seem like an exorbitant amount of dead money by 2028, having that sort of protection gives him leverage as he ages throughout this contract."
Barnwell goes on to assume something I wholeheartedly agree with: if Mahomes plays well, his floor for the next 12 years will be around $500 million. I find it much more likely that Mahomes and the Chiefs work on their next deal about halfway through this one rather than look for a way out of it. Barnwell circles 2025 as a potential re-extension date, which would give the Chiefs a chance to shave some cash off of Mahomes' $60 million 2027 salary before those guarantees lock it into place.
On the other side of the conversation, SI's Dan Gartland wrote this about what he expects from Mahomes' deal:
"If you know anything about NFL contracts and you’re not in the business of carrying the water for agents, you know that the chances of Mahomes seeing that full $503 million are miniscule. As with any NFL contract, there are ways for the Chiefs to get out of it if Mahomes underperforms on the back end."
While the last sentence of that blurb (click here for the full story) is certainly true, I don't think that the first sentence is. Yes, Gartland's general point about how Mahomes' deal isn't truly fully guaranteed like the stars of the MLB have gotten in recent years, the chances of him getting $500 million from the Chiefs are far beyond "miniscule."
But this is another area where Mahomes is different than your average NFL quarterback. Expecting Mahomes to "underperform on the back end" of his deal to the point that the Chiefs choose to release him, lose his talents and still pay him somewhere around $45 million for Mahomes to play elsewhere in 2028 or 2029 feels like a blatant misunderstanding of what Mahomes has accomplished so far.
The inner workings of Mahomes' contract will certainly bring some fun offseason content for the next decade or so, and it's fair to nitpick at the wordings in the deal, but make no mistake: the Chiefs and Mahomes have every intention of spending the next decade together, and likely a few more years beyond that.