Three Kansas City Chiefs Gearing Up For Roster Bonuses Or Guarantees
By Ben Nielsen
Dec 21, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith (11) takes the field against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Contract Remaining: four-years, $51,300,000 in base salary
Cap Hit: $15,600,000
Potential Savings: $1,200,000 with pre-June 1 designation; $12,000,000 with June 1 designation
Guarantees in Question: $11,900,000 2015 base salary guaranteed; $14,100,000 2016 base salary guaranteed
Everyones favorite franchise quarterback Alex Smith will see his 2015 and 2016 base salaries guaranteed in full on March 12, two days after the start of the league year. The total sum of money is $26 million, which I’m sure will please many of you to hear.
Kansas City could let Smith go before the March 12 date and save $1.2 million in cap space this season and all of the future cap hits he’d create beyond 2015. That’s not going to happen as the Chiefs do not have a viable option behind him.
We all should understand that Alex Smith was going to be the starting quarterback for the Chiefs in 2015 no matter what happened in the draft or free agency. So guaranteeing his 2015 salary is something of a formality. Had the Chiefs decided to franchise him, as was the argument last offseason, Kansas City would see Smith’s cap hit jump from $15.6 million to an estimate $18.51 million.
2016 is going to be the kicker for some people, but there needs to be an understanding that the likelihood is the Chiefs will not have a young quarterback that will be able to start – AND PLAY WELL – in 2016 unless they decided to pull the trigger on drafting Jameis Winston.
There are some good upside guys in the first two rounds of the draft at quarterback the Chiefs may choose to select and develop. Two names that come to mind are UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Colorado State’s Garrett Grayson. Both of those guys, with two years to develop in Reid’s system, could be intriguing starting quarterback for the Chiefs in 2017.
However, when you look at this year’s draft and the quarterbacks that are expected to be available this offseason and next offseason, there really isn’t a significantly better option than Smith available. Kansas City is paying less than the cost of a franchise tag and less than the projected costs of Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, and Andy Dalton for the right to not have Chad Henne playing quarterback for them.
Some may make the argument Smith is the 20th best quarterback in the NFL. Assuming that is true, then the obvious solution would be to get one of the 19 quarterbacks that are better than him. The problem is none – repeat: NONE – of those quarterback will be available to the Chiefs this offseason or next. This means Kansas City needs to draft and develop their own quarterback, which means riding Smith for another year or two as said young quarterback develops behind him.
Let’s say the Chiefs draft Winston and he proves to be more than ready to start the 2016 season. At that point the Chiefs could cut Smith as a June 1 casualty or they could trade him and recover some of the picks they gave up to get him. There’s nothing about Smith’s contract that absolutely cripples the Chiefs.
Once the 2016 season is over then the Chiefs can easily move away from Smith without much salary cap penalty. None of his 2017 or 2018 contract is guaranteed. By that time hopefully the Chiefs have made an aggressive move to start developing a legit, young, future franchise quarterback. If they haven’t by that time then all the criticisms we have about how the organization handles the quarterback position can start to become valid.
Until then the Chiefs don’t have a better option when it comes to trying to win games while also finding a young quarterback. Letting Smith’s contract guarantees vest is the right thing to do.