Score one for Andy Reid, again.
On Tuesday night, the Kansas City Chiefs coach resolved his quarterback situation, created a nice chunk of salary cap space and beefed up his secondary with a promising building block after swinging a lopsided trade with a familiar partner, the Washington Redskins.
Kansas City agreed to send Alex Smith to Washington in exchange for promising cornerback Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick. By parting with Smith, the Chiefs save $17 million against the 2018 salary cap and cleared the path for Patrick Mahomes – the 10th overall pick of last year’s draft – to take over as the starter.
Washington, meanwhile, did accomplish something with the trade. By acquiring a proven veteran in Smith, the Redskins now have positioned themselves to move on from Kirk Cousins after using the franchise tag to retain his serves in each of the last two seasons.
But it’s hard to classify this as a move that makes the Redskins better. Financially, they avoid having to potentially tag Cousins for a third straight year, which would have cost them more than $34 million for the 2018 season. Cousins wasn’t going to sign a long-term – and more cap-friendly – deal with Washington. He said all the right things publicly, but he and his camp had no desire to remain with the Redskins after Washington failed to present an agreeable offer the last two offseasons.
The two sides had yet to hold any negotiation discussions this offseason, and Cousins and his agent had no plans to do so. Washington’s only options would have been to 1) let him walk, 2) transition tag him so the team could have the right to match any offer Cousins received from other teams, or 3) use the franchise tag again.
The Redskins essentially are choosing the first option.
They have agreed to a four-year contract extension with Smith, who had one season left on his deal and will pay him an average of roughly $23 million per season, with $70 million guaranteed over the life of the contract. That’s a nice chunk of change for a soon-to-be 34-year-old entering the twilight of his career. Interestingly enough, Washington balked at paying Cousins the same kind of money a year ago, even though he is now just 29 and had already proven himself in Jay Gruden’s system.
But the Redskins found Cousins’ production to be insufficient in red-zone and late-game situations, and that heightened reservations about paying him like one of the top quarterbacks in the league.
The Redskins feel better about Smith, although it’s unclear why. He is coming off of a career year, having completed 67.5% of his passes for 4,042 yards, 26 touchdowns, and five interceptions while posting a 9-6 record as Kansas City’s starter. But he lacks the arm strength and mentality to be a consistent downfield threat, and his age is a substantial concern. He has developed into a solid starter and has three Pro Bowl appearances, but his postseason record is just 2-5.
Super Bowl VI (Cowboys 24, Dolphins 3): Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach (12) tries to escape the grasp of Miami Dolphins defender Jim Riley
The Redskins, however, have no problem taking aging quarterbacks off Reid’s hands. In 2010, the then-Eagles coach traded a 33-year-old Donovan McNabb to Washington for a second-round pick. McNabb was past his prime and had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career (58.3% completion rate, 14 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions) and got benched with three games left in the season. The Redskins traded him to the Vikings for a late-round draft pick.
Washington obviously wasn’t concerned about repeating history and now has hitched itself to Smith for the long term.
Acquiring Smith wasn’t the head-scratcher of a move.
Super Bowl XVIII (Raiders 38, Redskins 9): Los Angeles Raiders linebacker Matt Millen gestures as he celebrates with nose tackle Reggie Kinlaw (62) following their win
However, with other teams also reportedly interested in Smith, Washington felt the need to go above and beyond. But given the fact that Oakland just last year gave Derek Carr a five-year deal that pays him an average of $25 million and features $70.2 million in guaranteed money, Washington’s agreement with Smith – at his age and given his limitations – seems excessive. Part of what made Smith appealing previously was the fact that he put up good numbers while playing on an affordable deal.
Super Bowl XXII (Redskins 42, Broncos 10): Washington Redskins running back Timmy Smith goes around Denver Broncos linebacker Jim Ryan on the long run in the first quarter.
Acquiring Smith wouldn’t have been that bad had Washington simply had to part with a draft pick. But the Chiefs appear to have fleeced Washington because of the inclusion of Fuller in the deal.
A third-round pick in 2016, Fuller originally carried a first-round grade until suffering a knee injury that required surgery in his final season at Virginia Tech. Several draft analysts thought Washington had gotten a steal when Fuller fell to the team on the second day.
Super Bowl XXIV (49ers 55, Broncos 10): Denver quarterback John Elway dives for extra yardage.
He is coming off of a career year and has the ability to play well both in the slot and on the outside. Several offensive players viewed Fuller as one of the best players on the defense and capable of taking over as a starter opposite Josh Norman.
Now Washington must find another piece in the secondary.
Outside of Reid and the Chiefs, the other real winner in all of this is Cousins. He has longed to test his value on the open market, and now he presumably will get to do that while in the prime of his career.
It’s expected that the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, and Jacksonville Jaguars will rank among the teams in hottest pursuit of Cousins in free agency.