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Alex Smith Is Kansas City's Next Matt Cassel

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 11: Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers gets hit by linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar #52 of the St. Louis Rams during a run in the first quarter on November 11, 2012 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Christopher HansenNFL AnalystFebruary 27, 2013

The Kansas City Chiefs finalized a deal to trade for Alex Smith on Wednesday, as first reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. The compensation is reportedly the 34th pick in the upcoming draft and a 2014 pick that could also be a second-round pick depending on Smith’s performance.  

With the trade, the Chiefs have their quarterback. Its déjà vu all over again for Chiefs fans, as the team has traded for the 49ers quarterback several times before. The second-round pick the Chiefs will send to the 49ers is also the same exact pick the Chiefs sent to the Patriots for Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel.

It’s a horrible trade for the Chiefs. Not because Alex Smith is a horrible quarterback or there is a top-flight quarterback at the top of the draft or there are any better options available. It’s a horrible trade because the Chiefs gave up a lot to get Smith—way too much for a quarterback of his caliber, that the 49ers probably weren’t going to keep around.

It was a panic move, one the Chiefs didn’t need to make just because they didn’t like the quarterbacks in the draft. The Chiefs inherit Smith’s contract and will probably have to give him a contract extension that will tie the new regime to him for at least the next three years. Smith is scheduled to make $10.75 million in 2013 if you include his roster bonus, according to spotrac.com.

The Chiefs could have simply opted for a veteran stopgap for a year while looking for a franchise quarterback. It’s clear from this move that the Chiefs think Smith is a franchise quarterback, or convinced themselves that he can be one under Andy Reid.

It’s true that Reid has made a habit of getting the most out of his quarterbacks. Smith should be a productive quarterback for the Chiefs and a sizeable upgrade over Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn, but that’s not really saying much. There are a half-dozen free agents who would probably be better under Reid than Cassel and Quinn were last year.

Reid will have to get the most out of Smith while also letting him pass more. Smith has never attempted more than 445 passes in a season, while Reid’s offenses have averaged 572 attempts over the last four years. To cut down on turnovers, the 49ers encouraged Smith to take sacks, and he averaged nearly three sacks per game over the last two years despite having a very good offensive line.

Smith will draw obvious comparison to Cassel, and their career numbers are quite similar. Smith has thrown touchdowns 3.7 percent of the time to Cassel’s 4.0 percent. Smith has thrown interceptions 2.8 percent of the time to Cassel's 2.9 percent. Smith has taken a sack 8.3 percent of the time to Cassel’s 7.3 percent (6.8 percent as a Chief).

It gets even more similar as you start digging. If you think Smith doesn’t fumble as much as Cassel, think again. Smith has averaged a fumble every 49.5 attempts to Cassel’s 49.9 attempts. Ouch. The more you look at their stats—through different playing styles perhaps—the results are oddly the same.

If you take only Smith’s last two years, you get a different story. Smith’s last two years compare favorably with Joe Montana's two seasons in Kansas City, even though he attempted 128 fewer passes than Montana did as a Chief over the same span. You have to ask yourself if Smith was a product of a great defense, good running game and smart coach or he genuinely developed as a quarterback. 

I’m pretty sure the same fanbase that flew banners over Arrowhead last fall to bench Cassel would not want to trade a second-round draft pick for him. The stats don’t lie. If Reid can make Smith into a good starter, he probably could have done the same with Cassel and kept the draft picks. If Smith proved to be closer to Montana, than it’s a better trade, since the Chiefs went 17-8 with Montana under center. That seems like a stretch. 

John Dorsey and Reid are going to get the benefit of time, just like Scott Pioli did. It just seems odd that they would be so quick to hitch their wagon to a quarterback like Smith instead of continuing the search for a franchise guy. No one would have faulted the Chiefs for passing on Geno Smith and signing a veteran for a year, but they will if Smith doesn’t turn the team around.

With Smith in the fold, the Chiefs will probably draft an offensive tackle or defensive lineman in April’s draft. It will be interesting to see if the trade for Smith impacts Dwayne Bowe’s decision to re-sign and if the Chiefs still re-sign Albert or sign another left tackle in free agency. The Chiefs got their quarterback, and for better or worse, he’s going to be the starter for the foreseeable future.

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