by Ryan Hagerty (@Hags_Ryan)
For the second time in just about five years, the Kansas City Chiefs have successfully traded for the hottest quarterback on the market.
Back in 2009, Kansas City jumped on 27-year old Matt Cassel after he led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in the absence of Tom Brady. The Chiefs gave away the 34th overall pick in the 2009 draft in exchange for Cassel and outside linebacker Mike Vrabel.
With the exception of one solid season in 2010, when Cassel led the Chiefs to a division title, the trade did not pan out. Cassel lost his starting spot to Brady Quinn this past year, in the midst of a dreadful 2-14 season. A change was obviously needed.
With the first overall pick in the draft, common sense says that the Chiefs would draft a quarterback. This draft, however, does not have any quarterback worthy of a first overall pick. So the Chiefs decided to make a move and trade for San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith. This past week Kansas City gave the 49ers the 33rd overall pick and a “similar” pick in the 2014 draft. It was a much bigger price to pay than it was in 2009 when they acquired Cassel, but this time the Chiefs will be getting a much better signal caller.
Smith is coming off a year and a half of great football. After struggling to maintain the starting job in San Fran for his first six seasons, the Utah product had an incredibly efficient 2011 season. Smith threw for 3,144 yards and 17 touchdowns. Those numbers weren’t what was most impressive though. What really stood out to me was his quarterback rating of 90.7 and a meager five interceptions.
In the following season, Smith only got better. Through 10 games he maintained a 104.1 quarterback rating, but a concussion suffered in Week 10 effectively ended his stint as a 49er. Backup Colin Kaepernick took over and led the team to a Super Bowl appearance.
Many teams such as the Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets needed a quarterback. None of the mentioned teams were (record-wise) as bad as Kansas City. Despite that fact, I think Smith has, without a doubt, landed himself in a better situation than any of those teams.
For starters, the Chiefs had six Pro-Bowlers on their roster this past year. Now I know that with injuries and replacements for players in the Super Bowl, that number may be a bit tainted. But that doesn’t change the fact that a 2-14 team had enough talent to send over five players to Hawaii.
The easiest place to point the finger is coaching and that problem has been addressed. The firing of Romeo Crennel and the hiring of former Philadelphia Eagle head coach Andy Reid automatically makes Kansas City better.
Reid had a great relationship with long-time Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb. McNabb was a pocket passer that could make plays with his legs if the opportunity presented itself. Smith is exactly the same way. Smith is the kind of passer that can find great success under Reid.
Now let’s take a look at what Smith has to work with on offense.
I’m sure Smith enjoyed handing the ball off to Frank Gore in San Fran, but he has been blessed with an even better running back in Kansas City. He will have the luxury of having Jamaal Charles in the backfield. Charles is a 26-year old stud who has only scratched the surface with his talent. He is a versatile back that not only can pull off monster runs, but can make plays in the pass game as well. Coming off of a season with 1,509 yards on the ground and 236 in the air, Charles will make the change of scenery much easier for Smith.
And where will he be throwing the ball?
His main target will be LSU product Dwayne Bowe. Bowe has been the number one wide-out for the Chiefs since he was drafted back in 2007. Bowe has three seasons with 1,000 plus yards receiving and in 2010 he recorded an eye popping 15 touchdowns. For his whole career, Bowe has been forced to play with Cassel and a handful of other mediocre quarterbacks. With Smith under center I could see Bowe emerge as a superstar receiver. He is a lot better than people think.
Smith can also help with the development of soon to be 3rd year receiver Jonathan Baldwin. The Chiefs took Baldwin with their first pick in the 2011 draft and the Pittsburgh product was a huge disappointment. Baldwin consistently dropped passes and finished with a total of only 41 receptions for 579 yards in his first two years. The first round pick clearly has a lot of talent and can become a solid number two to Bowe.
Taking a look at the offense, I see loads of potential. Charles is still young, while Smith and Bowe are both just a few years older. That means that the three key players to the offense will be heading into their prime years.
Smith may not be a superstar, but he is exactly what the Chiefs need. One of the main problems Kansas City had was converting on third down, especially third and long. They converted 33% of their third downs, ranking 28th in the NFL. This is because Cassel could almost never make the pass to keep drives alive. I’m fairly certain that Smith will be able to drastically improve the Chiefs third down struggles.
As long as Peyton Manning is around, the AFC West belongs to Denver; But I don’t see any reason why the Chiefs won’t be able to contend for a wild card spot. With the acquisitions of both Reid and Smith, Kansas City is putting together one of their better off-seasons in recent memory.
Kansas City faithful, there is a lot to be excited about.