Why the Chiefs aren’t a dynasty in the making

By Matt Johnson
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off an impressive Super Bowl LIV win and celebration, the Kansas City Chiefs are poised for a bright future with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. Unsurprisingly, talk about the Chiefs becoming a dynasty has already begun.

Optimism among players and fans is understandable. Mahomes has already won the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP in his career and he’ll only be 25 next season. Pair it with some of the young talent on both sides of the ball and the pieces are seemingly in place to contend.

Winning one title is incredibly challenging. It takes a season of stars staying healthy, limiting mistakes and plenty of luck along the way. As the history of recent Super Bowl champions shows, lifting the Lombardi Trophy once more is nearly impossible – outside of the New England Patriots, of course.

The skinny: While the Chiefs are seemingly in a great position to make another trip to the Super Bowl in 2020, plenty of factors and history are working against them.

  • In the past decade, only two defending Super Bowl champions even made it back to the Super Bowl the following season. In both instances, ’13 Seattle Seahawks and ’16 Patriots, they lost.
  • Over that same span, the reigning champions didn’t even make it back to their conference championship game seven times.

Even if the Chiefs run it back with the same squad next season, a difficult task given the moves they must take this offseason, making it back to Super Bowl LV will be a far more significant challenge than anything they’ve faced before. Given the moves they’ll have to make this offseason, things are only going to become more difficult for the Chiefs’ attempt to become a dynasty.

Money Mahomes: While the Chiefs still have their star quarterback under contract for two more seasons, three if you count using the franchise tag in 2022. his price tag is only going to go up. As a result, it’s no surprise that the Chiefs want to get a record-breaking extension done this offseason.

  • When Mahomes signs his extension, it’s expected to shatter the market and he could become the first player in NFL history with a $40 million salary.
  • The 24-year-old counted for just $4.5 million against Kansas City’s total cap in 2019 and he’ll account for $5.2 million next season. Under his new deal, Mahomes could take up nearly 18% of his team’s total cap space in future seasons.

The Chiefs enter the offseason with roughly $14 million in cap space and the figure will drop when Mahomes signs his new deal. Given some of this team’s upcoming free agent, that creates a bit of a problem.

Chris Jones cashes in: For as impressive as Mahomes played while leading Kansas City’s comeback, Jones’ performance in the fourth quarter was equally pivotal to winning Super Bowl LIV. The 25-year-old interior defensive lineman is one of the best in the NFL and he’s going to get paid like an elite player this offseason.

  • If Jones hit the open market, he’s looking at a five-year deal worth more than $105 million and $60-plus million guaranteed, similar to the contract Frank Clark signed with the Chiefs.
  • Kansas City’s worst-case scenario is placing the franchise tag on Jones, which will likely cost at least $15.5 million. From there, the Chiefs can negotiate an extension with him or consider trading him for a top pick.
  • Given Jones is expected to make more than $20 million per season, with the request that he takes a hometown discount not even worth exploring, Kansas City’s hands are tied. They can keep Jones for one more season, but they’d almost certainly need to let him walk the following year.

This is where the dilemma is. The Chiefs could determine they can’t afford to pay Jones and Mahomes, opting to trade their star pass rusher for a 2020 second-round pick and a future fourth-round pick. At the very least, it would allow the front office with more resources to replace Jones and strengthen other spots on the roster with cheap, young talent.

Paying Jones and Mahomes, along with all of the other talent on this team, isn’t ultimately realistic. It creates an obvious scenario where Kansas City’s defense could lose one of its most impactful players, which further hurts its chances of winning another Super Bowl and becoming a dynasty.

Long-term commitments: The Chiefs’ cap situation is also about maintaining enough space to keep several other key contributors in the years to come. It’s a problem teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers faced, tough decisions will need to be made.

  • Even with Mahomes, Anthony Hitchens, Frank Clark and Tyreek Hill under contract through 2022, more big deals are ahead.
  • When Travis Kelce watches George Kittle and Austin Hooper break the market with record deals, he’ll want to be paid like the All-Pro weapon he is.
  • Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, pillars on the offensive line, will each be free agents after the 2021 season. Both will want to get paid and protecting Mahomes will become an even greater priority for the Chiefs.
  • Starting corners Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller are both free agents this offseason. Cornerback remains a pressing need and will be an even bigger issue if both leave.

Even with the new money that could eventually come from a 17-game season in a new collective-bargaining agreement and increased revenue from bigger media deals, there isn’t enough to keep everyone.

The bottom line: The Chiefs will remain a perennial contender with Andy Reid and Mahomes. Depending on them to become a dynasty is a stretch.

They will face far greater challenges and better competition in 2020 than they encountered this past season, it’s the nature of being a champion.

It’s certainly not impossible for the Chiefs to take the Patriots place as the NFL’s newest dynasty. But the salary cap and rising costs for top quarterbacks have made it so winning multiple titles is incredibly rare.

Before we even consider whether or not the Chiefs are at the start of a dynasty, let’s see if they can make it back to another Super Bowl.