The weeks leading up to the Draft is “what if?” season. There are thousands of hypothetical scenarios thrown around in this annual era of smoke and mirrors that will all be forgotten by opening day, or, at worst, this time next year.
Still, there is one hypothetical that does have me very jaded. What if Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater falls to the Chiefs at 23?
This question bothers me first and foremost because it’s believable. Unlike the “Should the Chiefs draft Clowney?” sort of worthless thought experiments, the possibility of Bridgewater falling into the bottom of the 1st round is quite possible. There were already concerns about his durability and body type, which, coupled with an awful pro day, could send him spiraling downward.
It also gets at lots of over questions of doctrine and strategy. Are the Chiefs in win-now mode? How committed is GM John Dorsey to “best player available” (BPA)?
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If Bridgewater is suddenly available at 23, the Chiefs front office will also have to immediately confront the question of the team’s long-term commitment to QB Alex Smith.
On paper, the Chiefs have no business drafting a quarterback in the first round. The team has other holes, and its starting QB just came off of a 24-TD-7-INT 2013 season and a nearly flawless 4-TD effort in a playoff loss that the team’s (aforementioned holey) defensive backfield lost for him. Furthermore, the team is secure with a QB Chase Daniel as the backup, who performed well Week 17, and Chiefs also already have a high-end developmental prospect in QB Tyler Bray.
So why is it even a question that the team might pick Bridgewater? Well, potential trade value is one reason. Part of the thinking behind the BPA strategy is that if you pick a gem you don’t need, you can always trade it or the player you already had. But generally the idea of picking, developing and trading a quarterback concerns mid-round QB’s.
Very rarely does a team make a major profit in draft picks in the process. Philadelphia drafted Kevin Kolb in the 2nd round in 2007, and traded him to Arizona in 2011 for a 2nd-rounder and CB Dominique-Rogers Cromartie. San Diego drafted QB Charlie Whitehurst in the 3rd in 2006, then traded him to Seattle for a 3rd-rounded and bump in their draft order in the 2nd. Washington has been shopping its standout 4th-round QB Kirk Cousins, but reportedly hasn’t gotten any interest for the player, who has shown himself to have starting ability, for the price of a 2nd-round pick.
The Chiefs would probably get the best value for trading Bridgewater by not trading him directly, but rather the pick itself. If Dorsey and company could convince QB-hungry teams picking at the top of the 2nd that they will take Bridgewater if they don’t get a decent trade offer, they might be able to move down and reap some additional picks in 2014 and 2015.
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Still, none of this addresses why KC might take Bridgewater and keep him. That question comes mostly down to money. The Chiefs only have Smith’s services until the end of the 2014 season and extending him will be difficult. It’s not yet been announced what the cap will be for 2015, but the Chiefs already have over $125 million in salary obligations for the year, going towards just 39 players. Meaning, unless the cap soars another $10 million higher, it’s going to be hard to give Smith a contract commensurate with that of a top 10 QB (which I believe he is) and still hold together solid roster.
Smith is making $8 million even this year, and the team will probably have to re-sign him for somewhere around $12 million to $13 million a year. By drafting Bridgewater, the Chiefs would have him locked down for four years at about $4 million per year.
Furthermore, while I personally do not subscribe to this point of view, there are many that believe Smith is a good QB with a steel ceiling. He’ll get you to the playoffs, but he won’t win you a championship. If you believe that to be true, you have to think hard about the wisdom of giving him a hefty contract at the end of this year and essentially marrying the team to him for at least another 2-3 years.
It’s all well and good to stand behind him in public, but if Teddy Bridgewater, who was previously viewed as a possible 1st overall pick, is one phone call away, it’s gotta give you pause. Bridgewater would also be the first QB the franchise would have tried to build around from his rookie season up since taking Todd Blackledge 7th overall more than 30 years ago.
There’s also some history that points to Dorsey maybe considering such a move. He drafted QB Aaron Rodgers 24th overall in 2005, despite the fact that Green Bay had a 35-year-old Brett Favre still playing at the top of his game. The Packers weren’t planning on taking a QB that year, but when it came down to it, Rodgers was the top rated player on their board available, and they knew that the immortal Favre would retire eventually (and then come back and retire again a couple of times).
In the end, I say the Chiefs should pass on Bridgewater or use his drop to the bottom of the 1st as the leverage to get more out of a trade-down. But, if I were GM, no decision would be harder than if Teddy “Gump” Bridgewater fell into my hands on May 8.
What would you Addicts do?