Should the Chiefs pay Alex Smith this year before the season starts or let him play out his contract? Photo - KCChiefs.com
Chiefs fans are passionate and knowledgeable about their team. For years they have waited for a quarterback that could possibly be the answer to the franchise’s drought at the most important position on the field. There were years where there have been good QB’s that donned a Chiefs uniform but nothing that has been sustainable for more than a couple years. Trent Green gave KC its best quarterback play in years when he became a Chief in 2001 at the age of 31. Over the next 6 seasons the Chiefs would see marked improvement in QB play. Green made the Pro Bowl and took the Chiefs to the playoffs in his third season with the team but couldn’t make it past the Colts and Peyton Manning in the first round.
If you were to fast forward to the 2013 season the Chiefs were in a similar situation having just traded for Alex Smith to become the new starter at QB. He had a season of ups and downs, starting slow and picking up steam as the year went on. He helped turn a 2-14 team into an 11-5 team and took them to the playoffs. He played very well in the playoff game against the Colts and had certainly scored enough points to deserve to win the game. At the end of the game, Alex had the Chiefs driving down the field to win the game and just missed the opportunity when Bowe stepped out of bounds as he caught the ball. A game that seemed like such a cakewalk early in the third quarter would become an excruciating loss to the Colts.
Today the most divisive subject when it comes to the Chiefs is whether or not to extend the same quarterback that threw for 378 yards and 4 TD’s on the road against the Colts in the playoffs. Does Alex deserve the contracts that QB’s have been getting over the past couple of seasons? Does he deserve to carve out his own niche which would put him below those other QB’s in the league? If the QB that replaced him in San Francisco is worth a 6 year, 126 million dollar extension what does that mean for Alex’s value?
For me the choice is pretty simple. You pay him. Do I think the Chiefs should sign him for 100 million? Yes I do. Will he ever make the 100 million? No, and neither will most of the other QB’s that have been signing the deals to this point. Statistically speaking Smith had his best year as a pro in 2013. He threw for 3,313 yards, 23 TD’s with only 7 INT’s. Those aren’t record breaking numbers by any means but he only played 15 games due to the Chiefs clinching their playoff spot in week 15, and he did it with a new team, coach, offense, and WR’s. His arrow is pointing up and there is no reason to wait until next season to sign him long term.
Kaepernick’s extension is a great example of how you can structure a contract so that the numbers sound outlandish but the reality of the contract is not anywhere close to that deal. Kaepernick is only truly guaranteed around 13 million which was the signing bonus. The rest of the contract is structured so that the 49ers can decide yearly whether or not he is worth keeping around for the price. He has an option in each April for the next year’s contract that can be voided anytime starting in April 2015. Sure the 49ers would end up eating the rest of the signing bonus next year if they don’t continue the contract but it ends up being less than what his cap number would be if he were playing for them.
I don’t expect Smith will sign a contract that similar to his replacement’s as he has more past earnings and more leverage. Doubling the signing bonus to around 25 – 30 million would not kill the Chiefs cap unless they cut him before the start of the 2015 season which at this point seems highly unlikely. If you work the salaries for the next couple years at low numbers you can keep his cap hit around the 7.5 million it is now or just above it and have the money to spend to extend Berry, Poe and Houston.
The Chiefs are in a position this year to tie Smith up for the next 3 to 4 years at a much lower rate than possible as soon as next year. Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger all have contracts that expire by 2016 and all of them will looking to be getting paid in 2015 if not before. The other side to the equation is that by 2016 the salary cap should be jumping significantly due to expiring TV contracts.
The time to pay Smith is now; before the season. If you are set to pay him 7.5 million this year and are willing to franchise him for 18 million plus in 2015 why not save the tag,? Give him the 25 – 30 million guaranteed with an additional 15 to 20 million guaranteed in a similar manner as Kaepernick’s contract and move on. You’ve locked up your starting QB for the next 3 seasons and don’t have to force Murray or Bray to be ready quickly. If in two seasons Alex isn’t cutting it you may have to eat about 15-18 million in dead money but that shouldn’t be as catastrophic with the cap expected to rise to around 145 million in 2015 and possibly be as high as 160 million in 2016. If you are handing over the team to Murray or Bray at that point they don’t have the experience to warrant a large contract and you will still have a reasonable amount dedicated to QB for the 2016 season.
You can follow Chris on Twitter @KCCHIEFS_58.