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Did Josh Allen actually sign a better contract than Patrick Mahomes did?

·8 min read
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When Patrick Mahomes signed his 10-year extension with the Kansas City Chiefs last July worth a max value of $503 million, it became one of the most dissected contracts in recent league history.

The game’s most superior talent at quarterback, then only 24 years old, would theoretically be locked up for more than a decade. The contract was really the first of its type, and no NFL deal has looked the same, apples to apples. It’s fair to wonder if another contract ever will.

After all, four-year extensions tended to become the norm for the upper reaches of the quarterback market. Think about the deals for Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz and Ryan Tannehill — all four-year extensions. Those deals often come with the biggest chunks of cash flow in the first two to four years, after which the teams often can get out from underneath the contracts without much dead money left on the books.

On Friday, the Buffalo Bills signed franchise QB Josh Allen to a six-year deal potentially worth more than $258 million, including more than $100 million guaranteed at signing, an NFL record. Allen, 25, is now under contract with one of the promising, young teams in the league through 2028, his age-32 season, tacking on six more years to the two remaining on Allen’s rookie deal.

“Josh has been everything we could have asked for and then some,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said Friday. “We think the best is yet to come.”

In reality, Allen’s new deal is the closest thing, structure-wise, to what Mahomes received than any recent QB contract. There is, however, one big difference, something that could end up benefiting Allen in a major way before Mahomes’ deal even comes close to completing.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is all smiles after his recent six-year mega-deal. (AP/ Photo Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is all smiles after his recent six-year mega-deal. (AP/ Photo Jeffrey T. Barnes)

How the next 8 years stack up

Both Mahomes and Allen are slated to be under contract for the next eight years or more, with Mahomes locked in three more years after that.

Over the next eight years, according to Spotrac, Allen could earn a base of $284.5 million. Over the first eight years of Mahomes’ extension (including the 2020 season), he potentially will have earned $285.3 — only a shade more.

When Allen’s deal ends prior to the 2029 season, he’ll be just shy of his 33rd birthday. At that same point, Mahomes will have three years remaining on his deal (at an average of $49.3 million per year) and will be 37 at its conclusion.

Realistically, Allen could be in position to renegotiate with two years remaining on his deal, sometime in 2027. Where his contract arguably is superior to Mahomes' is with the early-year cash flow and the shorter window to a third contract at a younger age.

Mahomes’ contract is more backloaded. It contains several protections that likely will ensure he receives a major chunk of his money, if not close to all of it.

Allen gets more actual cash in the early years of the deal, but his agents at CAA also buttered both sides of the bread, keeping enough protections in place to prevent Allen from being cut too soon and not realizing a big chunk of his money. From that perspective, it looks like a huge win.

Picture Allen sitting down to renegotiate his next contract sometime around his 31st birthday with what could be a $300 million salary cap. That’s an age when most quarterbacks are hitting their primes, and with the NFL’s gambling ventures and new media contracts, reaching that salary-cap level isn’t fanciful at all.

Assuming Allen keeps up his terrific play, it’s not hard to see why this extension could be a grand slam for him. Rodgers and Ryan signed lucrative deals at ages 34 and 32, respectively, giving us a picture into what Allen’s third deal could look like, plus added inflation.

The bottom line: Even though Allen’s per-year average is $2 million less per year over the course of his contract for less time, he could end up earning as much — or more — than Mahomes in the long run.

The up-front money favors Josh Allen

The eye-popping numbers on the surface of Mahomes’ extension obscured a few details that put his contract into scrutiny.

It’s true that Mahomes’ deal included more than $141 million in practical guarantees at signing, and that number was north of $200 million considering how the deal was structured. From that perspective, the contract looks tough to pass up.

The deal included “guarantee mechanisms,” or rolling guarantees that are not factored into the guaranteed-at-signing money, which will trigger at various points throughout the contract. They’re essentially two-year buffers for the player that require the Chiefs and Bills to guarantee significant portions of their quarterbacks’ contracts two years in advance.

That’s nice protection. The Chiefs in essence must guarantee big chunks of his contract two years in advance.

Allen’s deal has a similar structure, giving him a nice layer of security. He got those protections without being shackled for four more years — and he’ll be getting a bigger chunk of his money sooner than Mahomes will.

Josh Allen could start negotiating his next contract around age 31. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
Josh Allen could start negotiating his next contract around age 31. (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)

In a perfect world, Allen would have received a four- or five-year deal. Six is not too cumbersome a proposition when you consider that Allen received a record $100 million in guaranteed money at signing (Mahomes received just over $63 million) and that he could make more money in the first seven years in his deal than Mahomes will through his Year 7.

Allen’s deal could allow him to earn $243 million through seven years. Mahomes would get a little more than $225 million over that same length of his contract. The discrepancy over the first three years is even more dramatic — Allen will outearn Mahomes in that span by a factor of nearly 50% (Allen is slated to earn $95 million, Mahomes just over $63 million).

And where Allen really appeared to benefit was in leveraging that type of early-year structure compared to what he could have received had he played out his rookie deal, similar to what unfolded with Dak Prescott at the Dallas Cowboys.

Had Allen stayed on his rookie contract, counting his fifth-year option and two exclusive franchise tags (projected between $28 million and $29 million, plus the second-year kicker of 120% for a second franchise tag), he likely would have earned something around $85 million to $90 million over 2021-2024.

With Allen’s new deal, he’s getting more than $125 million through 2024 — a huge discrepancy. Industry sources Yahoo Sports spoke with indicated that this was one of the more impressive facets negotiated into Allen’s new deal.

Typically, extensions might offer only small increases over what the player might have earned had extension talks been delayed to the very last possible moment. A difference of $35 million to $40 million, or a 40-45% increase, is massive.

So did Allen get a better deal than Mahomes?

This question requires perspective. But some would say it’s possible.

Allen’s deal might receive more love in the agent community than Mahomes’ contract. If money is the bottom line, there are a lot of arguments for Allen receiving more early-year money and having a shorter structure as being more favorable aspects.

Many have argued that Mahomes left too much up-front guaranteed money on the table and that his deal anchors him too long before he can realistically negotiate. In particular, Mahomes’ $63 million guaranteed-at-signing number appears to stick out like a sore thumb.

There’s even debate in the agent community over exactly when the Chiefs could cut Mahomes if they needed to. Some believe it’s possible after the sixth year of the deal, though some believe it might be longer.

Still, even with that layer of security, Allen’s deal essentially gives him the best of both worlds. The similar guarantee-mechanism structure keeps the Bills from cutting him too soon, the early money outpaces Mahomes and Allen hits the market sooner.

The Bills are a proactive team in terms of signing their free agents in advance, adding Allen to the completed deals with cornerback Tre’Davious White and left tackle Dion Dawkins. They have a Super Bowl window that’s open now, just as the Chiefs do.

By getting Allen’s deal done now, the Bills also avoid having to match or surpass contract numbers that might have been given to fellow NFL draft class of 2018 QBs Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson and were able to structure it the way they wanted to keep that window open as long as possible.

So it made sense from Buffalo's perspective and fit the team direction. It's also not hard to see why Allen could be in fantastic shape to cash in and be, at least until the next young star surpasses him, one of the highest-earning quarterback of the next few generations.

Mahomes certainly should be in that mix, too. He just won't see as much of the money as soon and will need to be more patient.

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