LAS VEGAS — Patrick Mahomes still had his jersey on from Super Bowl LVIII when he brought up next year's Super Bowl.
"I'm going to celebrate tonight, I'm going to celebrate at the parade, then I'm going to do whatever I can to be back in this game next year," he said in his postgame news conference. "Go for that three-peat."
Winning two championships in a row is incredibly difficult. The Chiefs are the first repeat champs since the New England Patriots in 2003-04. There's a reason no team has ever won three Super Bowls in a row. It should be close to impossible in this era. The league is set up so no team is on top for long.
But the Chiefs are favored to do it again next season — and for good reason. There are some questions going into the offseason, but it's feasible that the Chiefs could bring back just about every key piece and maybe add a little talent, too. They're set up to be a contender for a long time, and that should be scary to the rest of the NFL.
Chiefs have free-agency questions
The Chiefs have two big pending free agents from their defense, and one will sound like a familiar story.
Defensive lineman Chris Jones held out last season through Week 1. There were reports that he was seeking $30 million per season. He did come back on a reworked one-year deal and hit some big incentives, and now he can hit free agency. The Chiefs could franchise-tag Jones, but it would be expensive and presumably lead to more acrimony and perhaps a longer holdout. Jones is the Chiefs' best defensive player and one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and his future is a key question for Kansas City.
On top of that, the Chiefs have to try to retain cornerback L'Jarius Sneed. One of the strengths of their defense was having two standout cornerbacks, Sneed and Trent McDuffie, and Sneed will get plenty of interest if he hits free agency. It would be a good offseason if they simply retain those two standout defensive players.
The Chiefs are in surprisingly good shape when it comes to the salary cap. They're projected to be $23.9 million under the cap, according to Spotrac, which is 17th in the NFL. Maybe that means it'll be possible to pay Jones and Sneed. The Chiefs don't want to take a step back on defense after a big improvement on that side of the ball this past season. The Chiefs have some good, young talent on defense after hitting on some draft picks, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo should return after an excellent season, but bringing back Jones and Sneed is crucial.
Chiefs could look to add on offense
Offensively, the Chiefs should be fine. They have Mahomes. That's enough to keep them in the top 10.
But there were some issues all season. The Chiefs need reliable receivers and need to be aware of Travis Kelce's age and role going forward. Kelce's numbers were down this season at age 34, an age at which almost no tight end in NFL history has had significant success. Kelce came alive in the playoffs, and he's one of the greatest ever, so he shouldn't fall off a cliff next season, but his days of posting 1,200-yard seasons could be over. Kansas City has to account for that possibility.
The Chiefs had two young skill-position players play very well late in the season: receiver Rashee Rice and running back Isiah Pacheco. Rice was a find in the second round of last year's draft and looks like a future No. 1 receiver. He had 938 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season, and a lot of that came late in the season as the Chiefs leaned on him more. He got better as his rookie season went on, too.
"I don't know how good I can get, but I know I can be great," Rice said during Super Bowl week. "I know I can be a top receiver in the NFL."
Pacheco also came on late in the season, and the Chiefs featured him, which could continue next season.
Having a second-year receiver who produced like a No. 1 option over the last half of the season and a third-year featured running back gives the Chiefs a head start. And Mahomes isn't going anywhere. The Chiefs have all of their draft picks except their second-rounder, and it wouldn't be a surprise if they use most of those picks on offensive talent.
The Chiefs have been in four Super Bowls in five seasons. They finally built a top-10 defense to help Mahomes and the offense. The Chiefs have some issues to address, but they have decent cap space and most of their picks. Kansas City might end up right back in another Super Bowl next year and perhaps make some history.