We all know the story. A franchise who never had much at the quarterback position finally finds their man. In his first year the team does well, winning a playoff game but ultimately failing to reach the Super Bowl. But in his second year the team takes a step forward and finally wins a Super Bowl for a team and fanbase that had been long without one. In the quarterback’s third season the team makes the Super Bowl again, but loses to Tom Brady. But despite that loss there was lots of optimism that the team would be successful for a long time.
I’m talking, of course, about the Seattle Seahawks and Russell Wilson.
Since that Super Bowl loss, the Seahawks have been a consistently good team, but have failed to even make it past the divisional round in the playoffs.
Now yes, there are differences. The Seahawks were more of a defensive team, and in the modern era it’s really hard to keep that level of defense together for more than a year or two. And yes, Mahomes is much better than Wilson. But the point remains, just because the Chiefs have had an awesome 3-year run doesn’t mean they’ll be going to the Super Bowl half a dozen times in the next decade.
To be perfectly frank, there’s more reason to believe the Chiefs are going to be closer to the post-2014 Seahawks than to the past three years. Mahomes is going to take up much more of the cap. In 2021, he will make $24 million, more than his first four seasons combined, and it will only get worse as time goes on, going up to $31 million in 2022 and $42 million in 2023. Of course the deal is a good one for the Chiefs, as NFL quarterback contracts are irrational and elite guys are underpaid, but that doesn’t change the fact that we now can’t spend that money on other players.
No more offseasons like 2019, where you sign big money free agents like Watkins, Hitchens, and Mathieu and trade premium draft picks for another expensive contract in Clark. You have to build through the draft, as those players are much cheaper, but the only Pro Bowler the Chiefs have drafted so far in the last 3 drafts is Hardman, who made it as a returner.
To be clear, it’s not all doom and gloom. Mahomes is still the best quarterback in the NFL and will be for a long time, and that alone means the Chiefs will always be in contention. But it won’t be as easy as it has been the past couple years. The roster will have holes. We will be starting a half dozen players who should be backups. We’ll have to watch as other teams sign the big name free agents while the Chiefs are mostly left with the scraps.
Luckily, Chiefs fans have endured far worse than having merely a top 5 team, but we need to make sure our expectations are reasonably managed.