The impact of the Alex Smith deal will be felt throughout the league. The former No. 1 pick was dealt yesterday to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2013 2nd round pick and a 2014 mid-round selection.
Andy Reid ushers in his Kansas City coaching career by hitching his wagon to Smith, effectively eliminating the possibility that a quarterback will be taken with the first overall pick in the draft. That would be the first time since 2008 (Jake Long) that a quarterback hasn’t gone first overall. Like 2008, it appears that an offensive tackle could be positioned to be taken atop the draft.
The other side of the trade made out like bandits. Alex Smith didn’t want to play second fiddle to one of the more promising quarterbacks in the league, Colin Kaepernick. The Niners clear $8.75 million off their 2013 cap and get the 34th pick in the draft. They now own fifteen picks in the draft and are positioned to be players in the trade or free agency market. With five picks in the top 100 (31, 34, 61, 74, and 93) the Niners have plenty of options to ensure they are viable contenders well into the future.
The strength of the 2013 NFL Draft lies in the depth of wealth in the 2nd and 3rd round range. With four selections in that range, the Niners have what the rest of the league will covet. Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh will have options in the draft. Of them include adding offensive talent around Colin Kaepernick. Randy Moss and Ted Ginn may not be back with the team and 2012 1st rounder A.J. Jenkins has yet to make an impact. On defense the priority will be to get younger on the defensive line and add secondary help. It’s a great year to take advantage of the depth at those positions.
Most important could be the fact that the Niners could be positioned to pull off a trade for a big name. Most notably will be Darrelle Revis of the Jets who appears to be destined to be dealt. His relationship with the Jets is cooling on both sides as the days go by. Revis gives the Niners a shutdown corner at a reasonable price as he’s coming off knee surgery. Pick 31 or 34 could be enough to pry Revis out of the Jets’ hands.
Another strong possibility is the Niners using their picks on Minnesota’s Percy Harvin. Harvin has worn out his welcome with Leslie Frazier and his history of migraines could make him dispensable at the right price. Adding Harvin to the 49ers offense is a scary proposition as he could be the perfect complement to Michael Crabtree, who came into his own in 2012.
The effects of the trade are certain to affect more than just the Niners and Chiefs. Matt Cassel is a certainty to be sent packing with Alex Smith’s arrival. Cassel could be viewed by some teams as a potential starter, believe it or not. That said, I’m struggling to find a team that he’s a better option than their current starter. A more likely scenario has Cassel carrying a clipboard. Could it be New England?
The free agent options at the quarterback position are few and far between. Matt Moore, anyone?
With this in mind, it would be a classic Bill Belichick move to move his young backup for nice compensation and then turn around and pick up his old backup in Matt Cassel. This is a conspiracy theory but makes a ton of sense. Ryan Mallett would be a hot commodity for vertical passing teams like Arizona and Cleveland. The former third rounder could be turned into a 2013 2nd round pick in a heartbeat with the lack of draft talent at the position. Cleveland is without a 2nd rounder but could package a 2014 pick and 68th pick for a guy that Mike Lombardi once coveted as an analyst.
Arizona is an intriguing option. I can’t see them paying Kevin Kolb $13.5 million this season. If he doesn’t re-structure his deal he could be cut at a cap savings of $7.5 million ($6 million in dead money). Mallett fits in Bruce Arians offense to a tee and he may be a better option than any of the quarterbacks available with the 38th pick. An underrated factor is that Jason Licht was with the Patriots when they drafted Mallett. Just a connection of dots.
It’s debatable whether the Chiefs ever had a notion of taking Geno Smith with the first overall pick. What we do know is that it won’t happen now with Alex Smith in the fold. With every offseason acquisition of quarterbacks we eliminate teams with quarterback needs. Meaning that the hierarchy of 2013 quarterbacks slides that much further down draft boards. Geno Smith will now be in play for Jacksonville, Oakland, Cleveland, Arizona, Buffalo and New York Jets respectively. Whether any of them take him we don’t know but one team has been eliminated from the mix, the Chiefs. An important and underrated factor when we are talking about the most important position in football.
We could debate all day what Geno Smith’s value is but his potential is greater than the quarterbacks in any of the above mentioned markets. Blaine Gabbert, Carson Palmer, Brandon Weeden, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez. I’m taking Geno over any and all of those guys.
One would have never guessed the ripple effect that, by in large, an underperforming former No. 1 pick could have on the league. The Alex Smith trade has went a long way in shaping the offseason and adds a whole lot of intrigue to an offseason that I expect to be one full of surprises.