Tuesday night, while President Trump gave his first State of the Union, other power brokers in Washington, D.C. were completing a deal that would bring its professional football organization a new starting quarterback: Alex Smith, recently of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Smith will sign a four-year extension with the Washington Redskins that reportedly guarantees him $71 million and could be worth as much as $94 million.
In return, Washington sent to Kansas City exactly what the Chiefs needed: help in the secondary, a draft pick, and salary relief.
Let’s take a look at the trade’s early winners and losers.
Winner: Andy Reid
Andy Reid is trying to make history–no head coach in the existence of the NFL has won his first championship this late into his career. Reid, after opting not to make any extensive changes to his coaching staff, instead jettisoned his starting quarterback of the past five seasons to Washington. This is not the first time Reid has dealt away his starting quarterback, and the haul this time is quite impressive.
As noted, Reid didn’t fire his defensive coordinator, Bob Sutton, despite the team’s lackluster defensive performance all season, and despite its debacle in the playoffs. Instead, Reid kept Sutton, and then gave him an excellent new piece to the puzzle: 22 year-old Kendall Fuller, the league’s top slot cornerback in 2017, who will most likely start on the outside opposite incumbent Marcus Peters. Couple that with the return of safety Eric Berry, and the Chiefs have instantly upgraded its secondary from a weakness to a strength.
Now Reid–and his puppet, general manager Brett Veach–have additional draft capital (that third rounder) and about $16 million in cap savings to address other needs on both sides of the ball.
Well done, Andy.
Loser: Washington’s Front Office
After the 2015 season, in which Washington went 9-7 and lost to the Packers in the wild card round, Kirk Cousins told the team’s front office what he wanted: a long-term deal that would guarantee him $44 million. At the time, Cousins was 27 years old and had just completed nearly 70% of his passes for over 4,000 yards and 29 TDs versus 11 interceptions.
Washington, led by owner Daniel Snyder, balked, and instead franchise tagged Cousins, paying him $20 million in 2016. That season, while the team’s record dipped, Cousins played extremely well once again, throwing for just under 5,000 yards with 25 TDs and 12 interceptions. With that excellent season, Cousins gained the upper-hand in negotiations. When a long-term deal could not be reached once again, the team had no choice but to tag Cousins, this time earning him $24 million.
This year, Washington went 7-9, and while his numbers weren’t as good, Cousins still played very well. But it became apparent that there was some animosity between player and brass, especially when his head coach, Jay Gruden, stated that he (Cousins) had to play better.
The big question at the end of Washington’s season was: are they really going to franchise tag Cousins for a third consecutive season?
Evidently, no. And it cost the team dearly.
To move on from Cousins, Snyder approved a deal that sent away a third round pick and one of the team’s top defensive players–for a quarterback who is three years older than Cousins. And, as the cherry on top, Snyder is going to give that new, older (and inferior) quarterback a deal that guarantees him $27 million more than Snyder could have paid Cousins before the 2016 season.
The Redskins were not a playoff team with Cousins and Fuller. They definitely aren’t a playoff team with Smith and no Fuller.
Winner: The Kansas City Chiefs Organization
In just one deal, before the Super Bowl has even been played, the Chiefs have leaped back toward respectability.
Pat Mahomes II, drafted 10th overall last year out of Texas Tech, is the team’s new starting quarterback, and he has shown great flashes of stardom in his limited playing time. Mahomes will greatly benefit from having Reid as his mentor. He is surrounded by an aging, talented team that has dominated the AFC West for two consecutive seasons.
Adding to that, the Chiefs have, essentially, recouped a draft pick it used to deal up for Mahomes last April. But more importantly, Fuller, also acquired, is a stud defensive back. It is going to be a joy to watch him share the field together with Peters and Berry for at least the next couple of seasons.
Winner: Quarterback-Needy Teams
While one quarterback is off the trade market, another enters free agency. That’s good news for teams like the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, and, yes, even the Cleveland Browns.
It has been reported that at least two of the teams above–Broncos and Browns–tried dealing for Smith, but now they can land Cousins without having to part with a coveted draft pick or promising young player (or, you know, both).
It would make sense for all of those teams named above to seek out Cousins, who wants to play for a winner. The Broncos, led by John Elway (pictured above) could surround him with an incredible defense; the Bills just reached the playoffs despite poor play at quarterback; the Cardinals boast a solid defense, Pro-Bowl running back David Johnson, and future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald; and the Vikings reached the NFC title game using their third-string QB. Each of those four teams would improve by signing Cousins.
Same goes for the winless Browns. Throwing a record-setting contract at Cousins would enable them to plug in a veteran behind center next season and address different areas of need with the 1st and 4th overall draft picks in the draft. (Saquon Barkley, anyone?)
Winner/Loser: Alex Smith & Kirk Cousins
Alex Smith gets that long-term deal with which to end his career that he had been seeking. Plus, the Chiefs passed up an opportunity to send him to The Mistake By the Lake, per his wishes. After being labeled a draft bust early in his career, Smith is now on to Act III in the nation’s capital.
Despite the big money, though, Smith lands on a team inferior to the one he just led for several seasons. Yes, he’s in a better situation than if he had been traded to Cleveland, but the Redskins don’t look to be going anywhere. The NFC East boasts the Super Bowl-contending Eagles; the always-dangerous Dallas Cowboys; and a New York Giants team that is merely one season removed from a playoff appearance.
Cousins is in a different boat: he’s out of the mess in Washington, but he’s without the huge deal he could have signed with them. Will another team, like the Broncos, Cardinals, or Browns, be willing to pony up that type of cash to pay a quarterback with good passing numbers but a less-than-stellar win-loss record?
Loser: Washington’s Defense
What do you think? Who won this trade? Did Kansas City really “fleece” Washington? Or will Alex Smith reach new levels in Washington? Let me know in the comments!