KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The season may have just finished for the Kansas City Chiefs, but quietly and behind the scenes, the Super Bowl champions already have started working on issues that will affect their 2020 season.
A look at their five biggest items:
Extending quarterback Patrick Mahomes' contract: Mahomes has one year remaining on the deal he signed as a first-round draft pick in 2017 and the Chiefs could extend the contract to include the 2021 season by activating his fifth-year option. But the time seems right to give Mahomes, in his first season of eligibility, a new contract to reward him for winning league MVP in 2018 and taking the Chiefs to a victory in Super Bowl LIV last Sunday. That's why it was a surprise when during Super Bowl week team chairman Clark Hunt suggested an extension for Mahomes might be another 12 to 15 months away. The Chiefs have plenty of work to do to prepare for free agency and the draft, but that work becomes much simpler knowing that the franchise quarterback is secured for a long time.
Deciding what to do about Chris Jones: The options for Jones, the Chiefs' star defensive tackle, are many but one thing seems obvious: The Chiefs can't afford to let him walk away without getting any compensation in return. That's why the franchise tag makes sense for Jones, a potential unrestricted free agent. The Chiefs could make Jones their franchise player and trade him, as they did with linebacker Dee Ford last year. With an extension for Mahomes looming this year or next, the Chiefs need to collect as many good, young and inexpensive players as they can. So a trade of Jones as the franchise player depending on the offer might be too tempting for the Chiefs to pass up.
Deciding whether to keep wide receiver Sammy Watkins: Watkins is scheduled to make $14 million next season, and it's difficult to justify paying that kind of money for what amounts to the third offensive option. That money could go a long way toward allowing the Chiefs to repair and upgrade their roster in other spots. But Watkins is still relatively young. He'll be 27 when next season begins, so he's still capable of delivering in big moments, as he has in the two AFC Championship Games and the one Super Bowl he has played in. Releasing Watkins would raise the issue of how the Chiefs replace him. Is Mecole Hardman ready to be a starter? Or will the Chiefs have to sign a free agent? If the Chiefs decide they have to go out into the free-agent market to replace Watkins, they might be better off keeping him for the final season of his contract.
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Rewarding Travis Kelce: It's difficult to overstate how much Kelce and his ability to get open down the field at 260 pounds has meant to the Chiefs. He has been so important that it's not even debatable whether he has outperformed the contract he signed in 2016. Kelce is scheduled to make $9.25 million in 2020 and $9 million in 2021, so if he plays anything like he has in recent seasons, the Chiefs are getting a bargain. There's no indication Kelce is unhappy with his contract or plans to hold out if he doesn't get a new one. But Kelce still will be only the sixth-highest-paid Chiefs player next season and that's only if they don't sign another player to a contract that exceeds his. It might be a good idea for the Chiefs to sweeten his deal, as they did last year for tackle Mitchell Schwartz. That can be tricky for a player like Kelce, who will be 31 in October. But he has earned it.
Preparing for free agency and the draft: One position to watch for the Chiefs this year is cornerback. One starter, Bashaud Breeland, is eligible to become a free agent. Kendall Fuller is as well, though he played some at safety and linebacker throughout last season. The Chiefs will need help at corner if one or both depart. The Chiefs also could use an upgrade at linebacker, more competition in the middle of their offensive line and depth at running back, where injuries were a problem last season.