Can the Chiefs afford to keep Chris Jones and sign Patrick Mahomes?

Chris Jones, Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
Chris Jones, Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Chiefs slapped Chris Jones with the franchise tag and will need to extend Patrick Mahomes here soon. Can they afford to keep both of them?

Brett Veach will have to work some magic with the Kansas City Chiefs’ salary cap this offseason.

The Chiefs’ general manager has done a remarkable job since assuming his post only a few years ago. He banged his fists on the table for Kansas City to trade up and draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech. Three years later, he was rewarded with the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy in 50 years.

While Mahomes is still on his rookie contract, it’s about that time for him to be paid the largest salary in NFL history. Mahomes is only 24-years-old but is poised to be the first quarterback to ever garner a $40 million annual salary in the league. Though he’s worth every penny, can the Chiefs even afford to do that now? How would an early Mahomes extension impact everybody?

Well, at this point in the offseason, no team in the NFL has a worse situation against the salary cap. The Chiefs need to cut a player or two to get out of the red. Plus, they just franchise-tagged defensive lineman Chris Jones, who will now command an average salary of the top-five players at his position group. Kansas City may want him long-term, but this is a hard-capped league.

No, it will not be easy, but there are a few things Veach can do in the coming months to keep key players like Jones and Mahomes around for more than just the upcoming 2020 NFL season.

Technically, the Chiefs don’t need to play until after the 2021 NFL season. Veach can and will absolutely use the fifth-year option on the former first-round pick out of Texas Tech. This could help space out Jones’ and Mahomes’ lofty contracts. Tagging Jones again in 2021 seems counterproductive, so it’s a long-term deal or bust with him after this upcoming season.

As for Mahomes, his price will only go up the longer he hasn’t been extended. Since the Chiefs are in salary cap hell, he and his representation can wait until next year to get a new deal done. Better yet, they can agree to something that won’t kick in until the 2021 or 2022 NFL seas at the absolute earliest. The Chiefs’ cap situation will be infinitely better by then for sure.

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Ultimately, patience will be the key for Veach in navigating these trying times through the cap. Simply put, Kansas City can’t splurge on long-term deals for both right now, but can extend both beyond next season if Veach does this right. Let Jones play out his deal on the tag, put together a new deal for Mahomes that won’t kick in for a few years, then give Jones a long-term deal last.