Labor negotiations aren’t exactly the stuff movies are based on. You’re not going to find many summer blockbusters about a bunch of overweight guys in suits arguing about whether or not the workers should get an extra half of a percent of the revenue from the business. But Chiefs fans should pay close attention the upcoming negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association, as the outcome of those talks will have a huge impact on how many Super Bowl rings Mahomes will be wearing in 30 years.
Before the current CBA, highly drafted rookies were paid well. Too well. In the 3rd year of his rookie deal in 2012, Sam Bradford was the 2nd highest paid quarterback in the NFL. In 2011 the highest paid quarterback was Mark Sanchez, at that point also in his 3rd year of his rookie deal. The veteran players were understandably upset about this. Why should guys who haven’t played a single down of professional football get contracts bigger than Pro Bowlers?
Since the NFLPA represents the current players only, they made this a point of emphasis when negotiating the next CBA. In response, rookie contracts were more strictly defined and, more importantly, were far cheaper. But this one change dramatically altered how teams were built. With young players being so cheap, teams who had good quarterbacks on rookie deals had a huge advantage over those who had the more expensive veterans. Where before it was quite common for quarterbacks on veteran deals to win Super Bowls, after 2010 those types of champions went nearly extinct.
Since the new CBA, only two teams besides the Patriots (we’ll get to them, don’t worry) have won the Super Bowl with a quarterback who wasn’t on his rookie deal. One was the 2011 Giants, who did it before these new rookie deals could really take hold. The other was the 2015 Broncos, who won despite Peyton’s contract in large part because they had made a number of cap-friendly free agent signings.
The Patriots have had a Super Bowl dynasty in the last several years, despite having a veteran quarterback in Tom Brady. But when you consider that Brady has consistently taken less than he’s worth (in 2017 he had the same cap hit as Mike Glennon), he’s the exception that proves the rule. By taking less money, he’s given the Patriots the same advantage that teams with young quarterbacks have.
Right now the Chiefs are in the ideal situation of having an elite quarterback on a rookie deal, but that won’t be the case in 2021 when the new CBA comes into effect. Then we’ll have yet another veteran quarterback on an expensive deal (albeit a very, very good one). If the new CBA keeps the same rookie wage scale that currently exist, we’ll have a much harder time in the playoffs. While our quarterback will be better, theirs will be cheaper, and that extra talent they can get with the extra cap space will make our path much harder.
But if they adjust those rookie salaries up, it eliminates one path other teams can use to overcome the gap in quarterback talent, and Clark Hunt will be able to line the walls of Arrowhead with Lombardi trophies.