Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes
Feb 2, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates after a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL remains optimistic that a full 16-game season will be played on schedule this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While there is plenty at stake for everyone involved, the league’s short-term future could be especially crucial for Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott.

As both star quarterbacks find themselves negotiating record-breaking contracts that would make them the highest-paid players in NFL history, those contracts could be in jeopardy due to the pandemic.

If the 2020 NFL season is played without fans in attendance, a realistic scenario, the NFL would take a staggering revenue hit. Each team would be at risk of losing nearly $100 million from concessions, parking and ticket sales, which could cost the NFL billions in revenue.

If the NFL revenue falls, potentially by upwards of $2 billion next season, the salary cap could drop dramatically. According to CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones, the salary cap could drop from nearly $200 million this season to $140 million next year. If that happens, the Chiefs and Cowboys could quickly pump the brakes on negotiations.

The Cowboys recently made a massive offer to Prescott, but the franchise quarterback is unwilling to sign due to his preference for a shorter deal. While it should be ground that could easily be covered to get a deal done, both sides have been stuck in the same position for months.

There is now greater uncertainty for how the NFL season will play out and growing risk that the organization could lose $100 million this year. As a result, preparing for the potential financial hit, the Cowboys could easily pull out of negotiations and let Prescott play under the tag this season. As for Prescott, he could risk losing tens of millions by waiting things out if the salary cap drops next year.

Mahomes could face a similar issue. Many expected him to sign a record-breaking extension after the NFL Draft, becoming the first NFL player to make $40-plus million per season. However, talks have gone quiet during the pandemic and the Chiefs could be realizing a looming economic nightmare. The front office could decide to let Mahomes play out the final two years of his rookie deal, buying them time to see how the NFL is standing financially when the pandemic is over.

The Cowboys and Chiefs both realize the financial restrictions that come with devoting a significant portion of a team’s cap space to a quarterback. Paying their superstar quarterbacks $35-plus million a year would come with even greater spending limitations if the salary cap drops next year. If this pandemic continues, the losses will hurt players for years to come.

Matt Johnson
NFL, MLB & college football writer for Sportsnaut. Graduated from San Diego State University with BA in Journalism, 2019. Grew up in Sacramento, now based in Indianapolis. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection, With the First Pick