Deshaun Watson, like Patrick Mahomes before him, doesn’t need to worry about securing a new contract beyond the 2020 NFL season. Both elite AFC quarterbacks selected in the first round of the 2017 draft were rewarded with lucrative extensions before the season.
The Texans gave Watson a four-year, $156 million deal in early September. The Chiefs locked up Mahomes for a decade with a record-breaking 10-year, $45 million deal in early July.
Although it seems like Mahomes got a lot more money and security than Watson, both QBs agreed on what was best for them going forward. Mahomes has the more guaranteed money overall from Kansas City, but there also are some ways Watson has an advantage in Houston.
Here’s looking at the details of the two deals for the two newest highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL and how they compare:
IYER: How Mahomes, Watson fell to Chiefs and Texans in 2017 draft
Deshaun Watson contract breakdown
Watson actually wanted only three years on his deal, but settled for four. His average annual salary from the $156 million total (per multiple reports) ends up being $39 million, putting him in between Mahomes and the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson.
Watson’s guaranteed money is a little less than $111 million with almost $74 million of that guaranteed at signing. He got a $27 million signing bonus.
With the four-year extension, Watson is now under contract with the Texans through the 2025 season. Watson just turned 24 on Sept. 4. Following up his rookie deal, he is currently unsigned for his age 30 season.
Watson gives the Texans a limited cap hit the next two seasons before it jumps over $40 million for the first year of the extension. They could easily get out of his contract should things go south, however, after the 2023 season.
Houston, given that Watson does have a torn ACL in his recent past, didn’t have to commit for too long should durability issues resurface. Watson gave himself a chance to re-enter an exponentially increasing QB market in his young veteran prime. If he can prove to emerge as the best QB in the league, a la Mahomes, he could be the one getting the trend-setting contract next time.
This also puts pressure on the Texans to build well around him quickly to give him what’s needed to take them to the Super Bowl. After he saw them trade go-to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins this offseason, some commitment to putting Watson in the best position to win big is needed over the course of his new contract.
Patrick Mahomes contract breakdown
Mahomes averages $45 million over his 10 seasons. He got more than $141 million guaranteed with $63 million guaranteed at signing. His signing bonus of only $10 million is a limited part of the big picture.
Mahomes’ contract is structured to spread out his cap hits so they are very reasonable for a franchise QB of his talent. He costs them only $5.4 million against the cap in 2020 and that number doesn’t go close to his average annual salary until the 2023 season. The cap hit exponentially balloons to just shy of $60 million in 2027, which would be Mahomes’ age 32 season.
The Chiefs didn’t want to worry about trying to renegotiate with Mahomes for a while to keep their Super Bowl window strong with him, fresh off winning one at only 24. Mahomes wanted long-term security as he already has become a Kansas City sports legend. Therefore, there was no need for possible reasonable outs for him or the team.
He will be a Chief for life and that’s why they were fine with what turned out to pay him 15 percent more than Watson. Mahomes didn’t reset the QB market; he was put in a deserved class by himself in anticipation of the ever-escalating salaries at the position.
Watson vs. Mahomes contracts
Looking at the guaranteed money at signing, Watson got more up front. That makes sense as the tradeoff for significantly fewer years. When Mahomes got that much money for so long, the situation became clear for Watson to go for as much as he could now without giving up the power to negotiate later based on where his play/worth is in relation to Mahomes.
With Mahomes setting unreachable parameters for a while, Dak Prescott should want something similar to Watson as another QB drafted in 2017. Prescott, franchise-tagged in 2020, is making $31.4 million guaranteed. Should the Cowboys use the tag on Prescott again on 2021 with a 20 percent increase, he would get another $37.8 million guaranteed.
Add that up, and that number is $69.2 million, just by Prescott agreeing to consecutive franchise tenders. That puts him essentially between Mahomes and Watson in what’s guaranteed in signing.
Just like Watson was smart to wait until Mahomes got his deal, Prescott is well positioned to go a similar route to Watson after the latter’s still highly pleasing contract. After Mahomes was set up for his money, Watson’s team went down the only path that could allow him to surpass Mahomes as the highest-paid quarterback.
Keep in mind that next year the spotlight will be on how reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens work toward his second contract. Depending on how Jackson fares in 2020, Watson and Prescott also likely will be chasing Jackson’s value soon, too.
Mahomes and Watson will be forever linked by being the Nos. 10 and 12 overall picks in the 2017 draft. Mahomes has separated himself to earn the bigger deal. Watson is looking to win the money marathon, however, with a sprinting spree.