Facing cap crunch, Chiefs reportedly restructure Patrick Mahomes’ record $450 million contract

The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t even wait a year before making their first tweak to Patrick Mahomes‘ record-setting contract extension.

Facing a significant salary cap crunch like many other teams, the defending AFC champions plan to restructure Mahomes’ $450 million deal by converting Mahomes’ $21.7 million roster bonus for 2021 into a signing bonus, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The move will reportedly save the team $17 million in cap space.

Mahomes’ cap hit for 2021 was previously set to be $24.8 million. It will now be only $7.4 million, per ESPN’s Field Yates.

Chiefs are feeling the salary cap pain

According to OverTheCap, the Chiefs currently rank in the bottom 10 of the NFL in cap space, at $4,426,519 over the line thanks to the NFL lowering the salary cap to $182.5 million due to revenue loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not New Orleans Saints bad, but it does require some maneuvering.

The first and second maneuvers were to release starting offensive tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, considered by some to be a puzzling move due to how the team performed without that pair in Super Bowl LV. Now, the team is clearing as much space as it can via Mahomes’ deal.

Mahomes’ restructure figures to bring the Chiefs under the cap threshold and even give them some wiggle room as they try to return to the Super Bowl.

Won’t be the last time Chiefs restructure Patrick Mahomes’s contract

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes watches from the sideline during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Patrick Mahomes already had a low cap hit among top QBs. It’s even lower now. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

This almost certainly won’t be the last time the Chiefs decide to move around money in Mahomes’ deal, which is almost designed to accommodate such moves. The contract reportedly contains automatic conversion that allows the team to convert salary or bonuses to a signing bonus at any time.

That’s just one more detail in quite possibly the most complicated contract in American sports. It’s either a $503 million contract, or a $477 million extension, or a $450 million extension with incentives, or a $141 million extension with an unholy amount of roster bonuses and option years, or a $63 million extension with an unholy amount of roster bonuses, option years and injury guarantees. It all depends on what you count in that big shiny number.

Either way, the deal is massive. That would cause some to believe that Mahomes’ contract is a yoke weighing down the Chiefs as they try to assemble a complete roster, but that’s really not what’s happening here. At least not right now.

Patrick Mahomes’ deal isn’t the problem for the Chiefs right now

The ironic part in all this is 2021 was supposed to be one of the easy years for the Chiefs.

In fact, Mahomes’ record deal only really begins the season after 2021. The extension was added onto the two seasons in which Mahomes was still on his rookie contract, so he will be essentially playing this season on his fifth-year option of $24.8 million.

Mahomes’ contract is designed to be front-loaded, with its annual cap hit not reaching $40 million until 2023. It is only then that Mahomes will have a salary in line with the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson. The deal gets fatter down the road — including a Looney Tunes cap hit of $59.9 million in 2021 — but the Chiefs will just figure that out later. NFL contracts are shockingly malleable, as this offseason has demonstrated.

Schwartz, who is no longer employed by the team, was even defending Mahomes’ deal when a fan blamed it for his release, noting that Mahomes’ salary is a discount compared to his peers right now.

This is absurd. Look at Pat’s deal compared to any other QB, he set it up to take way less money the first few years than all the rest. We kept everyone we wanted and made the Super Bowl. The pandemic dropped the cap by $25-30 million from the projected amount, blame that not Pat https://t.co/GIH5zqJoiP

— Mitchell Schwartz (@MitchSchwartz71) March 12, 2021

Now, Mahomes will be playing at an even lower cap number, and he won’t be the only quarterback to do so.

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