While the trade can’t be official until March 14, The Kansas City Star’s Terez Paylor broke the news last night that the Chiefs are trading quarterback Alex Smith to the Redskins. In a move that has all sorts of implications, Kansas City will receive a third-round draft pick and Kendall Fuller as compensation as well as $17 million in cap relief. Based on this trade, here is what we have learned:
The Kirk Cousins Era is Officially Over
There was chatter yesterday morning that Cousins could even be willing to play next season under the franchise tag (and with a $34 million salary, who wouldn’t?), but now that Washington has acquired Smith, cousins gets to walk away via free agency. Some could argue that they may try to tag and trade Cousins, but with a $34 million salary on that tag, he would have no trade value. In a divorce that’s been a long time coming, Cousins immediately becomes the top free agent quarterback available and will have his share of suitors, including Denver, the Jets and Arizona.
The Pat Mahomes Era Begins
Getting rid of Smith was always the game plan for Kansas City, who traded up in last year’s draft to acquire Mahomes. Mahomes gave the Chiefs a glimpse of their future in Week 17 as Kansas City gave him the start as the rested their regular players during the meaningless game and Mahomes became the first Chiefs quarterback to be drafted by the team and win a game for them since Todd Blackledge, who was drafted in 1983 and last played for them in 1987. Kansas City led the league in plays longer than 20 yards last season and that number only figures to improve with Mahomes and his rocket arm at quarterback.
Kansas City is Officially Under the Salary Cap
The Chiefs entered this offseason in bad shape. They don’t have a first round pick after trading it to Buffalo last season to acquire Mahomes and they were $9.2 million over the cap. Trading Smith freed up $17 million in cap space. They will still have to make decisions on players like Tamba Hali, Darrelle Revis and Justin Houston, but this at least offers some breathing room.
Cousins Wants Matt Stafford Money
Along with the trade, Smith is receiving a four-year, $94 million extension with $71 million guaranteed. The common question asked once this deal was announced is “why didn’t they just offer that deal to Cousins?” The answer is simple – they likely did and he likely said no. Cousins entering a market with multiple quarterback-needy teams means he is going to get paid – and paid a lot more than his actual worth. Last year, Stafford signed the richest contract in league history with a five-year $135 million deal, including $92 million guaranteed, a deal Detroit had to make. In the end, I don’t expect Cousins to reach a deal of that magnitude, but I do expect him to land somewhere in between of what Smith and Stafford received.
Kansas City Finally Got Their Second Conerback
Marcus Peters is a known commodity, but Kendall Fuller quietly had a monster season. Pro Football Focus gave the second-year player a 90.0 grade, sixth among cornerbacks as he operated in the slot most of the year. Opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 56.7 when he was targeted last year as he allowed 40 completions on 71 targets for 370 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Former Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan was particularly critical of trading away Fuller:
I would have never traded Kendall. He can play inside & outside, he’s high character, young & a football player https://t.co/DFpx4au6oG
— Scot Mccloughan (@MccloughanScot) January 31, 2018
Cleveland and Denver Lost
Adam Schefter reported as many as six teams were inquiring about Smith’s availability, including the Browns and Broncos. Kansas City reportedly refused to trade Smith within the division while the Browns, which are now ran by John Dorsey, the former Chiefs general manager who made the trade that brought Smith to Kansas City, failed to land him. From a pure speculative standpoint, Kansas City may have balked on sending Smith to Cleveland as he did not desire to go somewhere that both wasn’t a contender and puts him in a similar position that he was in with the Chiefs since Cleveland will most likely be selecting a quarterback with one of their two top five draft picks.
This Shifts the Quarterback Market in the Draft
Given Washington’s murky future with Cousins, it was definitely reasonable to expect them to draft a quarterback and have him sit for a year behind Cousins before giving him the keys to the offense. Now that Smith is here and a lot of money is committed to him, this takes the Redskins out of the running for someone like Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph. This bodes well for teams in the market for quarterback who have a draft selection after Washington, including Arizona, Buffalo and New Orleans.