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Patrick Mahomes should ask for a percentage of the cap

Mike Florio and Big Cat break down Patrick Mahomes' comments about his contract negotiation and his focus on a team-friendly deal.

As the Patrick Mahomes contract talks hover over the NFL post-Tom Brady free-agency decision, the simplest solution to Mahomes’ situation continues to hide in plain sight.

Mahomes should ask that his compensation be tied to a specific percentage of the annual salary cap.

Others have tried to get it. All have failed, possibly because the NFL (via its Management Council) has strongly encouraged teams to not do it. (Yes, it would be collusion if the teams blindly follow directives from the league office. Good luck proving it.)

Mahomes could be the first to get a percentage of the cap, via a very basic, fair, commonsense case for ensuring that the Chiefs will always have enough money to spend on other players by tying his own pay to a chunk of the cap. This would keep Mahomes from having to sign a long-term deal that would pay him what he deserves for the first three years and then becomes outdated by changes to the cap and the market in years four, five, and six. It also would give the Chiefs certainty, not as to dollars but as to the slice of total cap pie that annually would go to the team’s franchise quarterback.

If, for example, Mahomes gets 18 percent of the cap on a six-year deal that starts this year, and if the cap goes up by 10 percent per year, Mahomes would make $36 million in 2020 (18 percent of $200 million), $39.6 million in 2021 (18 percent of $220 million), $43.56 million in 2022 (18 percent of $242 million), $47.916 million in 2023 (18 percent of $266.2 million), $52.7 million in 2024 (18 percent of $292.82 million), and $57.97 million in 2025 (18 percent of $322.1 million). That works out to a six-year, $277.75 million deal, with an average value of $46.29 million.

Through it all, Mahomes would count for 18 percent of the cap, with 82 cents of every dollar available to be used on every other player on the roster. And the ultimate percentage for Mahomes would have to be negotiated carefully, whether it’s 16 or 17 or 17.8 or 18.1 or 19.05473. Regardless, it’s the fairest way to balance the immense value Mahomes brings to the franchise with the franchise’s ability to pay other players.

Mahomes and the Chiefs also would have to decide on the structure of the guarantees. But when it comes to quarterback contracts for short-list franchise players, the deal is typically guaranteed until it expires or a new deal is done. Rarely if ever does a true top-five quarterback lose his fastball or suffer the kind of long-term injury that undermines his value. Chances are that, if Mahomes were to sign a six-year deal that gives him 18 percent of the cap, he’d cash every check until the Chiefs and Mahomes rip up the contract and replace it with a new one.

But here’s the thing: Why would they? If 18 percent works for both sides, it would continue until Mahomes’ gets deep enough into his 30s (or maybe 40s) for his uncanny skills to begin to slip.

If Mahomes decides to proceed this way, maybe other teams will realize that, when it comes to quarterback contracts, the best way to proceed is to give the quarterback a specific chunk of the annual spending limit. This would ensure that the team always would have money for other players, and that the quarterback would never be underpaid.