Much was made of the Alex Smith to Washington trade. For those that have been living in ignorant bliss or simply need a reminder, the details of this trade are as follows:
Chiefs get: Kendall Fuller CB
Redskins get: Alex Smith QB & 2018 3rd Rd Pick (78)
Listening to Twitter, it would have appeared that the Chiefs pulled off the greatest heist in history; they fleeced the Redskins and Bruce Allen was clearly to blame. Now that the dust and emotions have settled, it’s time to look back at this trade objectively.
On the surface it makes little sense to move on from a 29-year-old QB in his prime (Kirk Cousins) while dealing a 3rd round draft pick and a promising young defender (Kendall Fuller) for a productive, yet past his prime, 34-year-old QB (Alex Smith). The situation was compounded by the Redskins immediately agreeing to sign Smith to a 4 year $87 million contract. A contract that sparked as much of an uproar as the trade itself.
On the surface, this seems like a really bad set of moves for Washington, but let’s revisit this situation.
#1 – The Contract: According to spotrac.com the market value for Alex Smith is a 4 year deal with a $21.7m/average salary which would be good for 11th highest annual salary among NFL Quarterbacks. He’s only making a $17m average though, or the 22nd most among NFL Quarterbacks. So, well below market value and I defy anyone who watches the NFL to find me 21 better QB’s.
I can hear you now, “but, Jeff, I don’t need 21 better QB’s. I just need one and Kirk is one,” to which I can only say…
#2 – Kirk Cousins was not re-signing with the Redskins…for any amount of money.
This bridge was burned during the 2017 off-season when Redskin brass repeatedly low-balled Cousins in extension talks leading to and shortly following the signing of his 2017 franchise tender, his 2nd. The offers presented to him were substantially less valuable in years one and two than just taking the franchise and transition tags in 2017 and 2018 respectively. It certainly didn’t help that Redskin President, Bruce Allen, continually referred to Kirk in public as “Kurt”. I could see Kirk not wanting to negotiate with or play for someone who can’t even get his name right.
Your (reasonable) response to all this might be, “Fine…but why not just franchise tag him again?”. Which leads us to my next point-
#3 – Signing Cousins to the franchise tag for a 3rd time would have cost an astounding $34 million against the salary cap with no guarantee of franchise stability after 2018. Based on some tinkering on spotrac.com, this move would have left only about $5 million under the cap for signing draft picks, resigning other players or adding anyone in free agency. Even with contract restructures to open up more space, the Redskins would still have far too many holes to fill for that to be a viable option. In short, it would be a potentially crippling move for a franchise desperate for any sort of sustained success.
Considering the first two points, we can safely say the Redskins NEEDED to find a way to add a QB.
#4 – If not Alex Smith, then who?
Draft a QB? The Redskins have the 13th pick in the 2018 Draft and it’s safe to assume 3-4 QB’s will be off the board by then. I personally don’t believe we have 4 franchise QB’s in this draft class. Which of course means you’re likely passing on a high caliber player to force a QB pick.
Sign a QB? OK. Who would they have chased? Drew Brees? He was never leaving New Orleans, but it’s fun to dream. How about Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, or Teddy Bridgewater? Keenum, is a solid young guy who had a great run in 2017 but is a far cry from being a “Franchise Guy”. Bridgewater? Is he healthy? He’s another young guy with promise but we don’t know what kind of player he’ll be when he returns from the gruesome knee injury that forced him to miss 2017. How about Bradford? He’s a veteran guy that can win but is he a scheme fit? Seems like Jay Gruden wants to use Josh Doctson more which means pushing the ball downfield more often. That doesn’t really play to the strengths of Bradford who is deadly accurate in the short to intermediate space but isn’t really known for beating you with his deep ball.
How about a trade? Well, who was available? Nick Foles? His value will likely never be higher than it has been this off-season. Coming off an improbable Super Bowl win over the Patriots, his name is one that was getting tossed around as a trade target. Regardless of the chatter though, he won’t be available until after the Eagles get Carson Wentz back from his torn ACL, which may not be in time for week 1 in 2018. Even IF he becomes available, it’s no foregone conclusion that he can be had at a reasonable price. Tyrod Taylor? That’s the a guy they could’ve had but given a lack of weapons in DC he may not have been any more successful there than he was in Buffalo…Oh wait, at least they made the postseason.
Which of course leaves… Alex Smith. A veteran with a nearly 2-1 career, TD:INT ratio in the regular season, and 14-2 TD:INT ratio in the postseason. He is a safe get for the Redskins, he’s a proven QB that they can plug and play for the next 3 years, and they’ll also get a compensatory 3rd rd pick in the 2019 draft for letting Cousins walk.
So, maybe the trade really should be shown like this:
Redskins Receive: Alex Smith & 2019 3rd Rd Pick
Chiefs Receive: Kendall Fuller & 2018 3rd Rd Pick (#78)
I don’t think Alex Smith is a world beater but the Redskins did get great value in the contract and the trade. It’s easy to chastise the Redskins because Alex Smith isn’t the sexy or exciting move but he’ll make guys like Jamison Crowder and Chris Thompson better than they’ve been. He’s also a stable locker room presence that will provide the kind of calm the Redskins need as they add more pieces and attempt to restore this once proud franchise to respectability.