As the Chiefs celebrate their Super Bowl victory with a parade today in downtown Kansas City that could draw hundreds of thousands of fans – if not a million given their wide fan base -- it’s not too soon to start thinking about the defense of their championship.
Super Bowl repeats are rare in this day and age of free agency and player movement. The last team to repeat was New England, going back-to-back in 2004 and 2005.
The Chiefs’ free-agent players figure to command more on the open market, given their championship pedigree. How many times have we seen it in recent years that a really good player from a Super Bowl team winds up going elsewhere and is paid more than he’s probably worth?
It’s common knowledge it’s impossible to bring everyone back from a champion. Everybody wants their piece of the pie and there’s no way to cut it up to make everybody happy. The Chiefs will allow some players to walk in order to pay their more high-profile players and rightly so.
Of course, Patrick Mahomes’ contract already is being analyzed as he’s the NFL’s biggest bargain right now and will no doubt be looking to re-negotiate. Clark Hunt, at some point, is going to write a big check with a bigger number than there’s ever been in the NFL. Mahomes is a generational player whose talent and intangibles carry an infinite price tag.
Mahomes seems very grounded and always puts the team first in his interviews. Being the smart guy he is, he knows a team is the sum of its parts and to keep those parts, he may have to take somewhat of a hometown discount so the toys remain in his treasure chest.
But he also has to look out for himself as he knows the career shelf of an NFL player.
Mahomes is entering the final year of his rookie contract that paid him id="mce_marker"6 million for 4 years, which is a pittance considering the revenue he’s brought to the franchise.
Hunt will get the deal done no matter what he has to do. With Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill already signed for next year, the core of the weaponry returns. Nobody is sure what Sammy Watkins’ future holds, but Mecole Hardman is a burner and made some huge plays should Watkins not come back as has been reported.
Where I think the Chiefs will invest in either free agency or with a high draft pick is the offensive line. That unit was tattered by injuries during the season and an upgrade, especially at the guard position, would be welcomed.
Defensively, I think the biggest need is at linebacker, though the Chiefs often use just two and play five in the secondary. There’s a glaring lack of speed at linebacker, so a free agent could find the Chiefs enticing.
The secondary floundered during the early part of the season, then started to grasp the new scheme. But I would think the Chiefs will use a second- or third-rounder here.
Kansas City has hit big on some later-round gems and hopefully it will strike gold again.
Kansas City has to guard against a Super Bowl hangover. But Mahomes, in his two years as a starter, has never lost a game by double digits and he keeps them in every game.
Kansas City certainly has the confidence now to make another deep run next year. The Patriots appear on the decline, with Baltimore a rising power. Free agency will play a big role as teams can get better in a hurry if they open up the checkbook.
As long as Mahomes remains a Chief, hopefully for the rest of his career, Kansas City will be among the elite teams year-in and year-out.