One of the first things new head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey did upon their arrival in Kansas City was acquire the team a new quarterback.
Now, with Smith heading into a contract year coming off a playoff appearance, the Chiefs need to decide if they can afford to keep the 30-year-old around in the long term.
Dorsey insisted that was the plan while speaking with SiriusXM Radio, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:
We’ve had continual conversations with his representatives. We’re at that point now where we’re going back and forth and eventually, as all negotiations are, there will be a medium point where both sides agree and time will move on and we’ll go to the next project... This thing will go on for a little bit. There’s a degree of patience here. There’s no reason to rush.
However, just before the draft, there were rumblings from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport that negotiations between the Chiefs and Smith "weren't progressing well," and the Chiefs drafted Georgia's Aaron Murray in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft.
With only about $4 million in cap space right now (according to spotrac) and outside linebacker Justin Houston also set to hit free agency next year, is there really a scenario where the Chiefs might let Smith walk?
Well, that depends on what Smith is looking for.
Just for the sake of argument, let's double Smith's 2014 salary of $7.5 million to a cool $15 million a season. That's a big pile of quarters, but it's not out of the realm of reason given the success Smith has enjoyed in recent years.
|Alex Smith 2013|
|11-4 as starter|
There are presently 10 quarterbacks in the National Football League who will make at least that amount in 2014.
It's good to be a quarterback.
Let's compare Smith's 2013 numbers (partly because it was his only year in Kansas City, partly because the NFL is all about "what have you done for me lately?") to those 10 wealthy signal-callers.
First up, completion percentage.
Well, this isn't getting off to the best of starts. Smith's completion percentage of 60.6 last year was very near his career average. It also ranked eighth of the 11 passers on this list.
We might as well bottom out then, because the comparison doesn't get a bit better when we look at passing yards per game.
Smith ranks dead last, and it ain't close.
It's here where many of Smith's critics hang their hats. Smith's 6.5 yards per attempt in 2013 ranked 34th among qualifying quarterbacks at Pro Football Focus (subscription required). It's no doubt a big part of the reason why PFF ranked Smith 24th among NFL quarterbacks. ESPN slotted Smith 22nd in total QBR.
Smith is—wait for it—a "game manager," a limited passer who has success only within the narrow confines of a system that doesn't ask too much of him.
Those criticisms have more than a little merit. However, in Smith's defense, it's worth pointing out that in last year's playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts, when the "system" went out the window, Smith threw for nearly 400 yards.
In fact, Smith's playoff numbers, limited though they may be, are pretty darn good.
|Alex Smith Career Postseason|
Never mind this play against the New Orleans Saints back in the 2011 playoffs.
Smith may well be a "game manager," but the list of things he can't do is shorter than a lot of people think.
Those aren't the only numbers of Smith's that look good. Over the past few years Smith has been one of the NFL's best at taking care of the football.
That was no different in 2013, where Smith ranked a respectable fifth among our merry band of millionaire (air)mailmen in touchdown-to-interception ratio, better than the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning.
OK, so everyone was better than Eli in that regard in 2013.
There's one other statistic that bears mentioning, the only one that really counts at the end of the day.
Since 2011, of the passers included here, only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have a higher winning percentage in the regular season than Alex Smith.
Say whatever you want about the talent around him, but that stat is nothing to sneeze at, and the thought that Smith had nothing to do with that success, that the 49ers and Chiefs succeeded in spite of Smith and not at least partly because of him, is just silly.
Is Smith the best quarterback on this list? Of course not. Nearly everyone would rank him toward the bottom.
However, he also isn't out of place, and in today's NFL that makes Smith a $15 million a year quarterback.
Like I said, it's good to be a quarterback.
And make no mistake, the odds are still in favor of a deal getting done before the season, assuming Smith's demands aren't off the wall.
Smith isn't a pup, but he isn't a geezer either. He's shown no real signs of decline in the past three years, and another good season will only serve to drive the price up.
A great one, and you have "The Joe Flacco Effect."
It's in both sides' best interest to get a deal done sooner as opposed to later. Say four years, $64 million, with about $28 million in guarantees and a team-friendly "out" after the third year.
It's a lot of money and won't be especially easy, given the Chiefs' cap situation.
Still, it'll get done, because NFL teams don't generally go around letting quality starters at quarterback get away.
And say what you will about Alex Smith, but he's a very good starting quarterback.
Provided winning games is your goal.
Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.