As each club is eliminated from the postseason, The Ringer will examine what went right, what went wrong, and where the franchise could go from here. Today it’s the Kansas City Chiefs, who won Super Bowl LIV, 31-20.
What Went Right
Well, they won the Super Bowl, so that’s one thing.
Looking forward, though, it doesn’t even seem like the Chiefs have hit their ceiling yet. They have the best quarterback in the league—and he’s only 24 years old. They have a surefire future Hall of Fame head coach and one of the best top-to-bottom rosters in the league. They’re already Super Bowl favorites for next season, and if they can add a couple more pieces—particularly to their defense, more on that in a minute—they can be a true powerhouse. There is a chance for a dynasty here. When you have Patrick Mahomes, anything is possible.
What Went Wrong
Mahomes won’t be a free agent this offseason, but he is eligible to sign an extension, and that deal is going to break every NFL contract record. Mahomes just finished his second season as a starter and already has an MVP trophy, a Lombardi trophy, a Super Bowl MVP trophy, and a list of statistical accolades too long to count. He’s the best quarterback in the NFL, and probably the best in Chiefs franchise history (and I’m not one to forget about Hall of Famer Len Dawson).
When you have the Steph Curry of the NFL, you pay him—and handsomely. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson currently has the richest contract in the NFL, with an average annual value of $35 million, and Mahomes will absolutely shatter that number. No one should blink if Mahomes’s deal cracks $40 million a year. He could even change the way NFL contracts are structured. Will he get opt-out clauses? Full guarantees? A short-term deal? A contract that is tied to the salary cap? Everything is on the table—and the Chiefs would be wise to give him almost anything he wants. This isn’t like Joe Flacco after Super Bowl XLVII, when his contract extension prevented the Ravens from building the kind of roster that he needed around him. Mahomes is so good that a megacontract will be absolutely worth it.
Whatever deal Mahomes signs, it won’t kick in until 2021, when his rookie contract expires. Next season, the Chiefs passer will carry a paltry $5.2 million cap hit, giving the team some wiggle room. With just over $16 million in projected cap space, Kansas City doesn’t have a ton of cash to spend, but it has enough to make some moves.
In immediate concerns, the Chiefs’ attention will have to be on their defense. Defensive lineman Chris Jones’s rookie contract is about to expire, and he is easily the team’s most high-profile free agent. The former second-round pick has been the lynchpin of the defense and was absolutely crucial in the squad’s Super Bowl win. He should get a contract that makes him one of the richest interior linemen in the sport and could be considered for the franchise tag.
There are also a few other players along the line that are up for new contracts, including Emmanuel Ogbah and Xavier Williams. Neither will command big salaries, but both are contributors that will need to be either retained or replaced.
In the secondary, cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller are up for new deals. Breeland came over from Green Bay on a one-year contract last spring and earned a starting role—he could get a longer-term look. Fuller, the former Washington corner who was acquired as part of the Alex Smith trade, wasn’t an every-game starter for the Chiefs this season, but he’s a reliable slot corner who intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.
Offensively, Demarcus Robinson and LeSean McCoy are both free agents. Robinson has lethal speed, but the Chiefs have such an abundance of pass catchers that they won’t break the bank for him. McCoy is in the twilight of his career and ceded his job to Damien Williams in the postseason, so don’t expect him to return in 2020.
There’s a lot of work to be done, but outside of Jones, none of these players occupy too big of a role for the Chiefs. This team should easily be able to reload for another run at the Super Bowl in 2020—and potentially many more after that.
Kansas City has the draft pick every team wants: the last one. While it has felt like a mistake in recent years to take a running back anywhere higher than the middle rounds, the Chiefs could be in the market for one. This running back class is loaded, with Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins holding early-round hype.
But while adding a highly regarded running back to this supercharged offense would be the most exciting thing this team could do in the draft, the defense may take priority. Kansas City could look to upgrade both its cornerbacks group and its linebackers. TCU’s Jeff Gladney and Alabama’s Xavier McKinney are defensive backs that could be available at the end of the first, while Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray is the main name to watch for at linebacker.