Much of this offseason has been a discussion about Alex Smith and whether or not he is worth keeping around. This conversation is bound to continue through the preseason and beyond whenever Smith either signs a contract or leaves the Chiefs. It should be noted, however, the Chiefs have been in this situation before with their quarterback situation, and the best answer may be to pay Smith now.
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The situation the Chiefs have now with Smith is pretty similar to the one with Trent Green in 2002 only the Smith situation would seem to be a much better gamble.
Before the 2001 season the Chiefs sent their 12th overall pick in the draft to St. Louis Rams for Green. Green had just completed year-two of a four-year deal, was not too far removed from ACL surgery, was about to turn 31, and had only one year of experience as the full-time starting quarterback. And the first season with Green under center was a bit of a nightmare.
Green 2001: 56.6% completions, 3.3% touchdowns, 4.6% interceptions, 71.1 quarterback rating
To recap, through three seasons of a four-year contract Green had torn an ACL, lost his starting gig to an Arena Football League quarterback (Kurt Warner), been traded for a first round pick, and had a pedestrian career numbers as a starter. The Chiefs had a choice, they could either believe in what they had (and they clearly did given what they gave up for him) and sign him to an extension or they could let the final season of his deal play out.
Carl Peterson chose the latter and ended up paying for it financially. Green increased his quarterback rating to 92.6 and improved his completion, interception, and touchdown rates. The result was an offseason where the Chiefs gave Green a seven-year, $50 million deal, an increase from his previous four-year, $17.5 million contract.
Alex Smith is clearly a better quarterback than Trent Green was at this stage of his career and has a much better pedigree as a former number one overall pick. Smith is going to demand a big contract no matter when it is he receives it. This is to say waiting a year is unlikely to save the Chiefs money given that Smith will still hold all of the leverage even if he has a down season in 2014.
John Dorsey and Andy Reid clearly believe in Smith as a quarterback. They gave up two second round picks for him and have had nothing but overwhelmingly positive things to say about him as a quarterback. If you have a quarterback you believe in and that you’ve invested so many resources into then waiting a year to get a deal done with Smith is the wrong move to make if you are the Chiefs.
Or at the very least, waiting is the most expensive move.