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Patrick Mahomes is trying to strike the balance between too much and not enough

Mike Florio and Chris Simms unpack Patrick Mahomes’ remarks about focusing on legacy and winning rings more than making money at this point in his career.

The headline that came from Patrick Mahomes’s recent comments regarding his contract, which is already outdated less than 40 months after it was finalized, focused on his decision to prioritize legacy over money. The full contents were far more nuanced.

Mahomes is trying to strike the right balance between taking too much and not being paid enough. If he goes too far one way, it becomes harder for him to chase Tom Brady’s seven championships. If Mahomes goes too far the other way, Mahomes comes off as a sucker, someone who is being taken advantage of by a team and a sport that benefits far more financially from his presence in the league than he does.

When Mahomes signed his current 12-year deal, he pushed the bar for highest-paid player in league history by a whopping $10 million per year. So, obviously, money was an issue then. Now, just three years later, he has fallen $7 million per year behind the current highest-paid player, Lamar Jackson. How is money not an issue now?

It’s already glaring to see the best player in the league be so underpaid relative to lesser quarterbacks. Especially when considering the cash flow over the first three years of the major quarterback deals. Mahomes already has plummeted to eleventh, and he’ll keep falling as more quarterbacks keep getting paid.

And, yes, Mahomes should not be a hog. If he pushes for $60 million or $70 million per year (which he absolutely deserves), the Chiefs wouldn’t have enough quality veteran players. (The rookie wage scale makes it very easy to have more than enough quality young players, if the team drafts and develops well.) Before any player takes less in order to help the team, the player should be certain that the money left behind will be fully invested in always putting the best players on the field, with 100 percent of the cap used every year, and cash over cap when necessary to add a missing piece or two, like a DeAndre Hopkins.

The owners never take less. The coaches never take less. The salary cap creates an environment in which fans and media can pressure players to take less, even when they shouldn’t.

It goes back to another point we’ve recently made. As evidenced by the manner in which quarterback movement influences the scheduling process, Mahomes and other franchise quarterbacks benefit the league at large. Beyond whatever the Chiefs can or will pay him, all owners should be feathering Mahomes’s nest with more and more cash.

He’s helping all of them make more and more money. As is Josh Allen. And Joe Burrow. And Aaron Rodgers. And Jalen Hurts. And Lamar Jackson. And Justin Herbert.

That’s the inescapable conclusion of the league’s pivot to boosting broadcast audiences to the maximum numbers, even if it means throwing in-stadium fans under the bus. Great quarterbacks make it all happen. Great quarterbacks should be getting extra money from a league-wide fund that properly rewards those players for the value they bring to the production, unrestrained by the guilt trip that the salary cap allows fans and media to place on a player who has a limited number of years to get maximum compensation for his unique skills.

Maybe it’s an issue for the next CBA. Maybe it will become a focal point for the next executive director of the NFL Players Association.

Maybe the quarterbacks of the NFL, recognizing their tremendous value to the game, should break away and form their own group that gets them paid both by their teams and by a league that needs the quarterbacks in order to attract massive TV audiences -- and the broadcast deals that flow from them.

Regardless, the best quarterbacks are currently getting screwed. Starting with the best of them all.