The Kansas City Chiefs are the reigning Super Bowl champions, but more importantly, they appear ready to establish a dynasty. Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City to the AFC Championship game during his first season as the starting quarterback, and then took Andy Reid all the way to the promised land despite missing a few games due to a dislocated kneecap. He's the phenom that has taken the NFL by storm, but Mahomes is not the only reason this team is on the verge of something special.
Much of the Chiefs' young talent is currently on team-friendly contracts, which quite frankly is everything when trying to build a contender. Kansas City has scouted well and drafted well, and that has led to on-field success. Still, the Chiefs are going to need their young talent to continue to develop if they want to run it back next season.
Typically, you can find a number of salary cap bargains on every NFL roster. Usually these players are on their rookie contracts, but sometimes they are signed in free agency to one-year prove-it deals. Below, we will examine the Chiefs' roster to pinpoint the five players who present the biggest "value" for the franchise from a salary cap standpoint. We will be referencing Over The Cap for all cap numbers, using each player's 2020 cap hit.
1. QB Patrick Mahomes
2020 salary cap hit: $5,346,538
Yes, Mahomes did just secure the bag with a 10-year extension worth up to $503 million, but the richest contract in American sports history is actually pretty team-friendly in 2020. Usually when quarterbacks are ready to reset the market, they replace the remaining years on their rookie contract with a big pay raise. Instead, Mahomes was fine with playing out the rest of his rookie contract with a couple of conditions, and then signing on a 10-year extension.
For 2020, Mahomes' base salary is just $825,000 with a prorated bonus of $4.5 million and a $0 roster bonus. That means his cap number takes up just 2.4 percent of the Chiefs' cap space. After this season, most of his money will come from his roster bonus while the base salary slowly increases as well. That's when he starts to get paid. When Mahomes was looking to sign an extension with the Chiefs, he wanted long-term security as well as the ability to give the Chiefs financial flexibility early on. This extension satisfied both of those desires, and now the Chiefs can lock up another player like Chris Jones for the future.
2. S Juan Thornhill
2020 salary cap hit: $1,048,924
Thornhill instantly became an impact player for the Chiefs and helped to define a secondary looking to establish an identity going into the 2019 season. The Virginia product racked up 57 combined tackles along with five pass breakups and three interceptions last season, and didn't miss a game from September through December. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL during the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Chargers and missed out on Kansas City's Super Bowl run, but he will be back and hopefully better than ever in 2020.
It was a pretty seamless transition for Thornhill going from First Team All-ACC to the PFWA All-Rookie Team, and CBS Sports NFL writer Josh Edwards labeled him as one of his 22 players ready to make the leap into Year Two. Chiefs fans obviously know who Thornhill is, but the rest of the league is going to find out very soon how special this player is.
3. WR Mecole Hardman
2020 salary cap hit: $1,135,239
The Chiefs' weapons are headlined by the likes of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, but Hardman might end up evolving into a star very soon. The rookie made the Pro Bowl as a returner last year, but it's clear he is capable of much more. Hardman didn't record a catch in the season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he took advantage of his opportunity when Hill missed time due to injury. In Week 2, Hardman caught four passes for 61 yards and a touchdown and then caught two passes for 97 yards and a touchdown the following week. Similar to Hill, the Chiefs appear to have discovered another burner who is a threat to score whenever he touches the ball.
4. WR Demarcus Robinson
2020 salary cap hit: $1,047,500
Another wide receiver makes this list and he's one of the taller wideouts who gets reps in Reid's offense. Robinson is a bit of an interesting story, as many thought he left the University of Florida too early. Still, he was selected in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft -- which was much higher than where many thought he would be selected. It took him some time to get going at the next level, but Robinson has put up career-high numbers in each of the last two seasons.
Robinson was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, and while it wasn't front-page news, it was a solid roster move. The six-reception, 172-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Oakland Raiders in Week 2 last year is still fresh in the minds of Chiefs fans, as it solidified the narrative that Kansas City has a pretty underrated wide receiving corps. Robinson left college early, is only 25 and has recorded two pretty nice seasons in a row. We definitely haven't seen all that he is capable of just yet.
5. DE Taco Charlton
2020 salary cap hit: $825,000
Yes, this is the same Taco Charlton who was a first-round bust with the Dallas Cowboys. Believe it or not, however, Charlton actually appeared to rebound last season with the Miami Dolphins. Although he played in just 10 games, Charlton finished as the Dolphins' sack leader with five. He showed improvement during the 2019 season, which makes us think that he was worth the flier the Chiefs took on him. Fellow defensive end Frank Clark -- who owns the highest cap number on the Chiefs in 2020 -- said this offseason that he wants to turn Charlton into a legend. The two were actually college teammates at Michigan, so there is plenty of reason to be cautiously optimistic about this addition. Charlton is only 25, by the way.