Jason Cole of the National Football Post reported today that the Chiefs are looking to work an extension out with starting quarterback Alex Smith.
— Jason Cole (@JasonColeBR) January 8, 2014
As the report notes, Smith is entering the final year of a contract he signed in 2012. He would earn his base salary of $7.5 million in this final year, which as Cole states, makes him “vastly underpaid compared to other quarterbacks of his experience and ability.” Cole went on 610 Sports Radio in Kansas City and took a guess at how much this new deal would be worth.
Well, Jason Cole was guessing, but he said "6 years, 17 or 17.5 million a year" when I asked what contract Alex Smith will sign. #Chiefs
— Danny Parkins (@DannyParkins) January 8, 2014
That is extremely telling. If Smith gets a deal like that, Kansas City is basically saying he is the franchise quarterback. If you’re wondering what other quarterbacks would be in his price range, his average salary of “17 or 17.5 million” would put him right above Eli Manning, but below Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford.
But the issue here is simple: is Alex Smith really the franchise quarterback? It’s a tough question.
When I’m thinking about a franchise quarterback, I’m thinking of a guy who I believe can lead my team to a Super Bowl. Can Andy Reid and the Chiefs say this about the nine-year veteran?
If we put his latest year under the microscope, some may be tempted to go with him. He was very efficient, as usual, completing about 61% of his passes for 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His latest performance in the playoffs was very impressive, as he threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns while completing about 65% of his passes. In fact, Smith’s playoff performance record is nothing to ignore. He’s thrown for nine touchdowns while never throwing a postseason pick in three playoff games. His career postseason completion percentage dips a bit to about 58%, but one can’t deny he has made plays on the big stage.
The detractors will point to Smith’s labeling as a game-manager. While he may be very efficient and won’t lose the game, can he go out and win it if needed? For his career, according to Yahoo! Sports, he has thrown 41 touchdowns and 47 interceptions when his team is behind. Also, in the fourth quarter for his career, he’s thrown for 27 touchdowns and 24 interceptions. According to Pro Football Reference, he’s tied for 96th all time with 13 game-winning drives, and tied for 85th all time with 11 fourth quarter comebacks.
Now I think it is worth noting Smith played on some pretty bad San Francisco teams. There’s not as much of an opportunity for game-winning drives when your team isn’t that good. The facts still stand though, and those numbers are not eye-popping.
Another aspect of his game, and a reason why many call him a game manager, is his lack of deep passing. According to Pro Football Focus, out of 40 quarterbacks who took at least 25% of their team’s snaps this season, Smith had the third lowest percentage of attempts traveling 20 or more yards. His yards per attempt was the lowest it’s been since 2009 at 6.7. This is an effect of playing in an offense centered around running the football, which is fine. The focal point of the Chiefs’ offense should be Jamaal Charles. But that means defenses can focus more on slowing him down, and more than likely, come out with a win. They will dare Smith to beat them deep.
In his current situation, he doesn’t have many weapons to test those defenses with. While Dwayne Bowe had a spectacular game in the wild card round, he did not have a productive season. Bowe caught 57 balls for 673 yards and five touchdowns. After him, no Chiefs receiver went for more than 600 yards or caught more than two touchdowns. Surrounding him with better talent to throw to is going to be imperative.
But it’s still extremely early in the offseason. We’ll see where this goes, but if Smith is given that kind of deal, he will be the Chiefs’ man as the quarterback of the future. Take a look at what he has done, and see if you’re comfortable with calling him that.
There are plenty of questions about the Chiefs this offseason. Find out which ones were answered here.