The sports card market's golden child has been struggling recently which has many investors concerned. Mahomes is more than an athlete to people in the sports card world, people have built brands around being Mahomes investors and even created characters themed around Mahomes. So when Mahomes starts to struggle, should you be worried even if you don't own his cards? With what Mahomes cards were selling for over the last year, the simple answer is a big fat yes. In this article, we will be taking an in-depth look at why you should be concerned about Mahomes.
Mahomes throwing this many interceptions is something new to many but the only difference this year from last year is the defense started catching them. Last season Mahomes only threw 6 interceptions but tied second with 19 defenses dropping interceptions.
Although it is only halfway through the 2021 season, outside of interceptions statistically speaking nothing has changed. He is on pace for over 4700 yards and 38 touchdowns. Mahomes did not forget how to play football, if the completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns dropped off then you should start to get worried. But the problem arises when you factor in the sports card aspect of this whole situation. People aren't paying 6 figures for a National Treasure rookie patch auto or over $10,000 for a Prizm base PSA 10 rookie (pop 880) for him to be Matthew Stafford or Russell Wilson.
2. The Domino Effect
The expectations put on Mahomes by investors are fairly ridiculous when you truly think about it. For any other quarterback in the league, this wouldn't be a discussion let alone a blog article. The problem arises when you start comparing a quarterback in his 4th starting season to Hall of Fame quarterbacks let alone Tom Brady. Legitimate discussions in the hobby if Mahomes is already a top quarterback of all time took place. The small snowball atop the mountain over the last two years made it down the mountain arriving as a 50-foot snowman. In three years, he made 2 Super Bowls with his only 2 playoff losses being against 42 and 44-year-old Tom Brady. So that must mean once Brady is gone Mahomes is going to win every Super Bowl right?... Now we are seeing what happens when you bake 5+ Super Bowls into a player's prices.
If the surest thing in football becomes an uncertainty, what is going to happen to the rest of the highly invested young quarterbacks? It will not be an overnight flip from people building brands and characters around Mahomes to Josh Allen. The domino effect in economics refers to how one action can have a knock-on effect for related subjects. A justification for the Vietnam war was the U.S. was afraid of the domino effect with the spread of communism. Could a different red scare be back but this time in sports cards with the Chiefs quarterback struggling?
If the surest thing in football can become an uncertainty in a matter of 8 weeks, will it cause people to possibly second guess when paying 6 figures for Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, or even Josh Allen? This is all speculation as only time will tell for how the market will react but it's not far-fetched to assume those who were letting cash fly in the sums of millions at Mahomes cards will second guess before buying another unproven commodity. Although we cannot know for certain what the record-breaking 4.3 million dollars Mahomes is worth now, it's safe to say it certainly hasn't gained value.
With Panini Prizm being by far the most popular non-super high-end product, using Card Ladder’s data we can see across-the-board drop-offs in Mahomes Prizm rookie prices. The numbered Prizm rookies are even seeing fairly substantial drop-offs in a very short period of time. 15% to 40% drop-offs in a month might not sound that bad but when you are dealing with cards worth thousands it's a pretty big deal.
3. Salary Cap
When Mahomes signed a contract for half a billion dollars, it was clear that they could not keep the same talent around him as when he was on a rookie contract. We see it all the time in the NFL where franchises have to decide if they want to pay a quarterback big money because they know the sacrifices it comes with. Some even call it “the curse of the salary cap eating quarterback.” Mahomes' half a billion-dollar contract officially will take a noticeable chunk out of the salary cap starting next season. A cap hit of 7.4 million to 35.7 million is no joke in a salary cap league, that is a 380%+ increase.
When you already have Mahomes investors, fans, and collectors blaming this season's woes for the lack of talent around him, what happens when the Chiefs start to have less and less money? Well, the answer is quite obvious, they will no longer be able to retain key offensive and defensive players. A big reason why Brady was and is so successful is that he took team-friendly deal after team-friendly deal. All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu becomes a free agent at the end of this season and with Mahomes' contract quadrupling, will they be able to afford him? And if they can afford Tyrann, what about 25-year-old Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown or starting right tackle Mike Remmers? If Chief fans thought he had no talent around him now just wait until his contract quadruples and they have to go in the bargain bin for offensive lineman and safeties to replace all pros. It doesn't get any better the year after either with his cap hit going from 35 to 46 million dollars. This has yet to take into consideration that Tyreek Hill will become a free agent in 2023 and has already turned down a team-friendly contract extension. Accounting for over 1200 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, it is safe to assume that Mahomes' star receiver will not be cheap. Tough decisions will have to be made as the years go on the cap hit gets higher and higher. For every 3 key players on expiring contracts, you will likely only be able to keep 1 which makes the room for error even smaller. In short, if you thought Mahomes had no talent around him now, you’re in for a rude awakening.