Sometimes you never know what you have until it’s gone.
That’s what the Kansas City Chiefs will experience next season.
The Chiefs have agreed to trade longtime quarterback Alex Smith to Washington for defensive back Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick.
The trade wasn’t totally unexpected. In fact it was a foregone conclusion after No. 1 draft pick Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to a scintillating victory over Denver in the regular-season finale, flashing the big arm and athleticism that tantalized Kansas City into moving up in the draft to take him ahead of Deshaun Watson, who was having an All-World rookie season for Houston until he was felled by injury.
This was purely Economics 101 since Smith was scheduled to count id="mce_marker"7 million toward the Chiefs’ salary cap next season. They can use most of that money to rebuild their sagging defense that was torched the second half of the season and needs an infusion of talent and youth since Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are at the end of the line and the defensive line was pedestrian.
I also believe the Chiefs felt Smith had taken them as far as he was going to. He’s not at the elite level of quarterbacks in the NFL that’s reserved for Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but he’s in that next level, guys who put up good numbers but are known for game management.
I’ve always felt Smith was underappreciated in Kansas City. He never got enough credit for the wins and too much of the blame when they lost. He also was remarkably durable, almost never missing a game, not to mention he played hurt on occasion.
He was a good runner and accurate mid-range passer. The knock was that he couldn’t go deep, but remember he was running the plays that Andy Reid called.
Smith also was popular with his teammates and the community for the service he did off the field.
Now we enter the Mahomes Era, for better or worse.
What he brings to the table is a fresh set of legs, a rocket arm and flair for the dramatic. He’s going to make some “how did he do that?” plays, but he’s also going to make some throws that are going to cause fans to scratch their heads. He came from a spread offense at Texas Tech, but getting all the reps in practice and having a preseason game to knock off the rust should prove beneficial.
This could be a transition year for the Chiefs, who are coming off back-to-back division titles for the first time in their history. Obviously Jon Gruden going to the Raiders is going to energize them and he could work wonders with David Carr at quarterback. If Denver signs soon-to-be-dumped quarterback Kirk Cousins from Washington as many have rumored, the Broncos will be right back in the thick of things as they have a championship defense. And never count out the Los Angeles Chargers, who like Denver have a good defense and maybe a better offense.
Look for the Chiefs to go extensively for defense in the draft and they also can be players in the free-agent market with the extra cash from the Smith deal. I think their success next year will be predicated on that side of the ball because even without Smith, the Chiefs have enough playmakers to be an explosive offensive team, provided Kareem Hunt doesn’t encounter the sophomore jinx.