Now that the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV by taking down the San Francisco 49ers 31-20, it’s not too early to look at the team’s future.
After waiting five decades between titles, but can the Chiefs return to this stage in short order? For Kansas City to remain a regular fixture in competing for the NFL’s crown, it will need to navigate a few central issues.
And no concern is bigger than the looming contract extension talks that will take place among quarterback Patrick Mahomes, agent Leigh Steinberg and the Chiefs’ front office. Mahomes is entering the final season of his rookie deal in 2020, though the franchise will almost certainly exercise its fifth-year option on him.
Many teams, however, try to get a head start on locking up their franchise cornerstone, especially when that player’s price is only likely to increase with each passing year amid the gradual swelling of the salary cap.
Whenever Mahomes signs his contract, he likely will be the highest-paid player in NFL history in a deal that should also break the record for guaranteed money (Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff currently holds the mark with $110 million). That’s simply the trend for franchise quarterbacks due for a payday. The delicate balance, though, comes in the timing. When Mahomes gets his money, the deal will take away some of the available resources Kansas City will have to pay others.
Mahomes isn’t the only player who’s looking for a payday and long-term security. A few key Chiefs players are in an even more pressing situation with their contracts set to expire. Most of the key expiring deals, too, are on defense. Defensive tackle Chris Jones, a key piece of the pass rush, is most important, though there are key defensive backs in the mix, too.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was passed up in this head coaching cycle, but he may not be overlooked for much longer. Bieniemy is one of the more qualified offensive assistants available in the NFL, and it’s likely only a matter of time before he gets a shot at being a head coach. Though Bieniemy doesn’t call Kansas City’s offensive plays, he’s instrumental in crafting the weekly game plan alongside head coach Andy Reid. If the Chiefs have another season full of offensive explosiveness, the organization should be looking at potential in-house replacements in preparation for the possibility that Bieniemy gets a head coaching gig. Reid surely has a pulse of who on his coaching staff can take that next step. The offseason would be a perfect time to challenge some of Bieniemy’s potential replacements.
Kansas City’s defense started to surge late in the season when safeties Tyrann Mathieu and rookie Juan Thornhill were able to play freely and aggressively attack. Though the Chefs got some good help from Daniel Sorensen, Thornhill’s torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in the season finale against the Chargers is a concern. Players recover from torn ACLs all the time, but because of the timing of the injury, Thornhill may end up missing offseason time that could be key, especially since he’s still a young player who could benefit from more reps.