Photos via Matthew Stockman/Getty Images (left), Andy Lyons/Getty Images (right)
PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen: The NFL’s Richest Rivalry

On Sunday night, the two NFL players with the two biggest contracts and the most guaranteed money will meet Sunday for the third time in the past year.

The NFL’s richest players by guaranteed contracts will face off on Sunday night when Patrick Mahomes II and the Kansas City Chiefs play Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills.

Mahomes and Allen played each other twice last season — once in Week 6 and again in the AFC Championship. The Chiefs bested the Bills in both contests, winning 26-17 in the regular season and 38-24 in January to punch a ticket to the Super Bowl. 

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Before the two quarterbacks squared off for the first time, Mahomes had already inked the largest contract in American sports history. Fresh off a Super Bowl-winning season, the Chiefs wasted no time resetting the quarterback market. The two sides agreed to a 10-year, $450 million deal that maxes out at $503 million if every incentive hits, with $141 million guaranteed. Mahomes was effectively $63 million richer the day the contract was signed based on the particulars of the guarantee structure, and starting next season, he will average $45 million annually through 2032.

On the opposite sideline is Allen, whose production took an astronomical leap last season to help him earn the second-biggest contract in the NFL. The Bills’ gunslinger made a subpar 2019 a distant memory when he exceeded expectations with career bests in completion percentage, passing yards per game, yards per attempt, touchdowns, and quarterback rating, earning himself a Pro Bowl nod and even some modest MVP buzz.

The five highest-paid NFL players by guaranteed money, via Spotrac

Allen went 2-1 in the playoffs, leading Buffalo to its first AFC Championship game since 1993. What resulted was a six-year, $258 million deal in the offseason. Notably, of that quarter of a billion dollars, $150 million was guaranteed over the course of the full deal — the highest such figure in league history. And the day Allen signed the deal, he instantly locked in just over $100 million in guarantees right off the bat without having to take a single snap.

And while his average yearly salary falls below Mahomes’ record-setting $45 million, he lands safely in second place at a sweet $43 million. 

In the last two offseasons, it’s quite possible that Mahomes and Allen have established the ceiling for quarterback pay for this immediate NFL era. The Cowboys’ public dispute with Dak Prescott ended in favor of the Dallas signal-caller receiving a four-year, $160 million contract with $126 million guaranteed; despite a record-setting $66 million signing bonus, his average annual rate of $40 million ranks third behind Mahomes and Allen.

In fourth and fifth are Deshaun Watson’s $39 million AAV and Russell Wilson at $35 million. 

The five highest-paid NFL players by total value, via Spotrac

Looking ahead, there are quarterbacks in the final year of their rookie contracts who have their eyes on big-time money come next offseason: Former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, No. 32 pick Lamar Jackson, and No. 3 pick Sam Darnold. 

Admittedly, it’s unlikely that these men (or any other quarterback) will earn deals in excess of Mahomes’ or Allen’s in the near future.

But one day, it’s inevitable that we’ll see a QB sign a contract legitimately worth half a billion.