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Patrick Mahomes… the $40 million man?

When Super Bowl 54 kicks off in Miami on Sunday night, the biggest star in the NFL today will take centre stage as sensational quarterback Patrick Mahomes leads the Kansas City Chiefs' attack against the San Francisco 49ers.

In just two short seasons as a starter, Patrick Mahomes has taken the NFL by storm and is already on his way to becoming an all-time great. In his first 35 career starts, the 24-year-old has thrown for 10,600 yards and 87 touchdowns - both are NFL records, besting Kurt Warner and Dan Marino respectively.

Mahomes has wowed us in more ways than mere statistics alone. We've seen a left-handed pass while being hunted down by Von Miller, a no-look pass against the Baltimore Ravens, many angle-defying back-across-the-field passes and we've seen 'that' touchdown run against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Championship Game that powered the Chiefs to a first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.

When you consider that Seattle's Russell Wilson is earning $35 million per year as the highest-paid player in the game today and that the salary cap continues to go up year on year, is it that inconceivable to think Mahomes could break the $40 million-per-season barrier when he and the Chiefs sit down and negotiate his new contract, likely in this coming offseason?

I asked Mahomes' agent Leigh Steinberg about the possibility of contract talks starting up soon and that subject was shut down pretty quickly with the super-agent insisting: 'That's the last thing in the world that's on our minds right now. He has a contract and he's got the biggest game of his life coming up.'

So the contract talks are on the back burner, at least until after Sunday. But when that payday comes it will be huge for a young man who is already the highest-rated quarterback in NFL history with a mark of 108.9.

Mahomes has been the talk of Miami this week and big-name players and pundits have been all too willing to heap massive praise on the 2017 first-round draft pick out of Texas Tech.

'He's special,'says Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. 'And it really all starts with that arm talent. He can throw the football right out of the stadium.'

Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, now of Pro Football Talk, adds: 'I think Patrick Mahomes is the best player in the sport right now. What we've seen over the last four or five weeks and through the playoffs has put him in another stratosphere. To me, it's comparable to Aaron Rodgers in 2011, 2012 and 2013 where against most teams, he can almost beat them by himself.

'Just think about what we've seen from him in the last two rounds of the playoffs. It didn't matter if the right defense was called or not, he was going to make the play work and that's because he is an exceptional talent.

'He has grown, the offense has grown around him and his confidence is through the roof. I love Aaron Rodgers but this is the first time in a long time that there is a new sheriff in town as far as being the most talented quarterback in this league.'

Given the way Mahomes can pick defenses apart with accurate, laser-guided throws from his cannon of an arm, it is obvious that his Chiefs teammates are going to love him. But they are not just wowed by his physical skills ' they are moved to follow him because he is already such an outstanding leader, as evidenced by his fiery sideline speech when the Chiefs fell down 24-0 to the Houston Texans in the Divisional Round.

Oh and since falling into that 24-point hole? Mahomes has completed 70 percent of his throws for 572 yards, eight touchdowns, no picks and a rating of 139.7 in six glorious quarters. I guess the Texans went and woke the sleeping giant!

The leadership and skill displayed by Mahomes on that day at Arrowhead certainly surprised no one in the Kansas City locker room.

Chiefs offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz told me in Miami this week: 'Pat is awesome. We all know how good he is at football and we've seen all of that. But behind scenes, in terms of his leadership and being a great teammate, it's nothing he has to manufacture. He is a guy who never stops fighting and never quits. He wants to do everything perfect every time and he is the first to own a bad play. This is his football team.'

Veteran defensive back Tyrann Mathieu has also been mightily impressed by Mahomes as 'The Honey Badger' comes to the end of his first season in Kansas City.

Mathieu stresses: 'It's his leadership that makes him so special. For him to be that young, I've been around certain guys who are apex leaders and I think he has those traits. He's all about his team and he has these funny, weird ways of getting guys to play better and not everybody has that affect on people. He makes it easy for guys to trust him and he is very relatable. I like everything about him - he is calm, he is collected and he has a hell of an arm.'

Indeed he does and the San Francisco 49ers know only too well the size of the task facing them on Super Sunday. The 49ers boast the number one pass defense in the NFL this season and the best to reach a Super Bowl since the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers. But they understand the challenge of facing Mahomes, who boasts a 7-0 career record against top five pass defenses.

'He is the best one we will face,' explains San Francisco rookie defensive end Nick Bosa. 'He's got an unbelievable arm, he can extend plays and he is super accurate. You name it, he can do it.'

Fellow defensive lineman DeForest Buckner adds: 'Mahomes' drive to compete is unreal. Their offense is really explosive and Patrick is one hell of a talent and he can beat you with his legs or his arm. He has the ability to throw it all over the field and make all the throws. We need to do a really good job of limiting the explosive plays.'

That will, of course, be much easier said than done. Mahomes is a sensation and he is just getting started. On Sunday, he can become the youngest player in league history to win an NFL Most Valuable Player award and the Super Bowl. He will be 24 years and 138 days old on Sunday.

And it feels like the start of some Mahomes-led dominance for the Chiefs. Few would bet against Kansas City being in this big game a few more times over the next decade with number 15 at the helm.

Surely that has to be worth $40 million per year?

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