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The careers of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson will always be somewhat intertwined.
They were drafted two picks apart from each other in 2017, both after their teams traded up for them. One already has a league MVP and Super Bowl title, while the other is a popular pick to take home the former award in coming seasons.
Mahomes and Watson dueled in the AFC Divisional round last season, with Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs downing Watson’s Houston Texans in potentially the first of many postseason matchups between the game’s brightest young stars. They’ll go head-to-head again Thursday night as the NFL opens the 2020 season and the Chiefs look to defend their Super Bowl title, while the Texans look to build on two consecutive years of playoff berths.
The duo’s gridiron connection will last as long as their organizations rise to the top of the AFC. But they will be linked together over the next decade when it comes down to dollars and cents, too.
Over the weekend, Watson inked a deal that could keep him in Houston through the 2025 season — and pay him an average salary of $39 million per season from now until then.
Mahomes agreed to a 12-year, $503 million extension in July, setting him up to be the highest-paid quarterback of all time. Still, his base salary for 2020 remains $825,000 — a slight raise from the $645,000 he made while leading the Chiefs to Super Bowl LIV several months ago (per Spotrac). The Texans, meanwhile, paid Watson more than $1.724 million between a base salary and roster bonuses in 2019, while Mahomes’ roster bonus for 2019 brought his total salary close to $2 million.
Therefore, the pair of soon-to-be 25-year-olds (Watson’s birthday is Sept. 14; Mahomes’ is Sept. 17) find themselves on drastically different financial footing compared to how they left each other in January. Mahomes’ average annual salary of $45 million will almost surely lead the NFL (although that figure could change with a raise), and Watson won’t be far behind him at No. 2.
Additionally, Watson has an out in his contract after the 2023 season and can become an unrestricted free agent in 2026. Barring injury or significant dropoff, another large deal will head his way in either his late 20s or early 30s.
Both of their journeys began with initial disappointment. Watson’s promising rookie campaign ended due to a torn ACL, and Mahomes spent his rookie season behind Alex Smith on the Chiefs’ depth chart. Less than three years later, they’ve put pen to paper to become football’s wealthiest players.
So when Mahomes and Watson face off once more Thursday night, they’re not only two of the game’s most dynamic quarterbacks — they’re the future barons of the NFL.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
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