Kansas City Chiefs
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Chiefs deal QB Smith clearing way for Mahomes
The first bomb dropped in what is expected to an offseason of considerable volatility among quarterbacks in the NFL.
With seven head coaching changes coupled with upwards of 20 teams with offensive coordinators different from who began the 2017 season, instability will again be rampant with offenses.
And that is already the case in Kansas City after the Chiefs agreed to trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Redskins when the league year begins March 14.
Still, the Chiefs are taking a leap of faith by likely starting Patrick Mahomes in his second season after what Smith has accomplished in Kansas City after being acquired from San Francisco when head coach Andy Reid was hired in 2013.
While it is Reid's offense the Chiefs play, they also haven' been immune to change in the coaching ranks after coordinator Matt Nagy was hired as head coach of the Bears and running backs coach Eric Bieniemy was promoted to coordinator.
It's no real surprise that the Chiefs dealt Smith, considering they traded up in last year's draft to select Mahomes.
What's eye-opening is that the destination is Washington where the real ripple effect from the deal is felt.
Kirk Cousins has played the last two seasons under the franchise tag. The Redskins refused to truly commit to him long-term, and Cousins was fine with being paid a total of $43.89 million in 2016 and 2017
The Redskins wanted no part of going through a potential transition or franchise tag for another year, but they still could slap a tag on him in the next month in hopes of making a trade.
Coincidentally, Cousins appeared on PFTLive earlier in the day before word of the trade was reported, and said, "I think we'll do what we've done the past two seasons. There's no need to change the script. Stay consistent with the plan: Let the team do what they want to do. We'll see what the Redskins want to do and then I'll react accordingly."
He found out quickly enough.
Still, Washington is making a risky decision not in acquiring Smith but in knowing they will be searching for a quarterback again perhaps in two or three years.
Smith will be 34 on May 7, and reports on a new four-year contract have the dollars pegged at $94 million with $71 million guaranteed. Of course, the devil is in the details, which we won't know officially until the contract is filed in March.
We will probably learn that a much smaller percentage of that $71 million is guaranteed at signing, with much of it in injury guarantees or becoming guaranteed at the start of later league years.
At their media session Wednesday, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who was with Smith in Kansas City, said, "Washington's very fortunate to have a quarterback in Alex Smith. My year with him was one of my favorite years of football. Just being there in Kansas City and getting to work with him, seeing a guy that for some reason people critique all the time. The guy's a winner. Look at him. Look what he did this year. He just keeps coming. He keeps getting better.
"When I was with him, I worked with him every day. He's one of the smartest players I've ever played with, one of the most athletic guys. He can make plays. But most importantly, leadership in the locker room. He can turn a locker room around and guys believe in him. Washington's getting a great quarterback. I'm excited for him and his opportunity. This league's crazy. You never know what's going to happen."
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who was also with Smith in Kansas City, said, "I just hate that we've got to play him twice a year. I'm happy for Alex. I had a chance to work with him for three years. I'm excited and happy for him. He's going to do fine. He's a pro's pro. He's going to come in and he's going to demand perfection of the guys he's working with."
Meanwhile, the next destination for Cousins will be the subject of likely wild speculation in the next six weeks.
Cousins made it clear in that PFTLive interview what he wants. "Is money a part of it? Sure. Is it the only thing? No," Cousins said. "It is about winning, and that's what I want more than anything, so I'm going to be willing to make sacrifices or do what has to be done to make sure I'm in the best possible position to win, and that's what the focus is going to be."
As an unrestricted free agent, he will have a chance to do that, provided a contending team has interest. The one that makes the most sense is Denver.
While Cleveland and the Jets will surely be mentioned, those won't be places Cousins will want to go. All bets might be off, however, if the Redskins try getting value in a trade.
The Chiefs took the high road, electing to send Smith to the Redskins rather than the Browns, who reportedly expressed interest.
The Broncos will be in the market for a quarterback, and considering the lengths they went to try and keep Brock Osweiler before he signed with Houston in the 2016 offseason, they should go hard after Cousins.
Linebacker Von Miller hopes that is the case. After the Broncos lost to Washington 27-11 on Dec. 24, Miller said, "A lot of teams would kill to have a quarterback like that."
Appearing on The Dan Patrick Show Wednesday, Miller said, "He knows exactly how I feel about Kirk Cousins and what he'd mean to our team. And what he would mean to a lot of other teams. He's the hot quarterback on the market right now. ... Yeah, we need Kirk. We need Kirk. I'd like to have Kirk. Kirk could take us over the edge."
A season that started with Super Bowl aspirations for the Chiefs and included a red-hot 5-0 start that kicked off with an upset win over the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots turned south at midseason, with the fallout leaving the franchise at a crossroad heading toward 2018.
The Chiefs' bewildering season ended with a frustrating 22-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round. The game served as a metaphor of sorts for the team's season, with a second-half letdown fueled by a leaky defense allowing a big lead surrender and the Chiefs unable to rally at the end.
Yet the collapse leaves head coach Andy Reid with a hint of optimism looking toward next season. He values the grit his team showed in shaking off a 1-6 slump and rallying for four straight wins to claim back-to-back AFC West titles for the first time in franchise history.
"A lot of times when things go south they go south fast and never recover," Reid said. "It's happened to a lot of football teams. This group here rallied back through whatever injuries you want to look at and adversity and put together a pretty good season."
The Chiefs' transition quickly with a new offensive coordinator and a shuffling in the team's scouting department. More changes are likely as the team ponders difficult roster decisions, including one between veteran Alex Smith or youngster Patrick Mahomes at quarterback next season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The offense shined in 2017 with quarterback Alex Smith turning in the best season of his career with 4,042 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. Tight end Travis Kelce turned in another 1,000-yard season, Tyreek Hill blossomed into a No. 1 wide receiver with a 1,000-yard season of his own and the Chiefs found their heir apparent to running back Jamaal Charles in rookie Kareem Hunt.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Kansas City's defense never found its footing, ranking in the bottom quarter of the league against both the run and the pass and struggling in key situations including third downs and in the red zone. The defense showed a disappointing tendency to let down late in games, surrendering second-half leads four times including in the disappointing playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas. The Chiefs hoped that Thomas might finally find his role in the team's passing game in his transition to wide receiver, but the fourth-year player turned in another below-expectations season. Thomas caught just 14 passes for 143 yards and lost his job as the team's top kickoff returner. Thomas unfortunately suffered a serious leg injury in the regular-season finale, undergoing surgery for a broken leg. With Thomas wrapping up the final year of his rookie contract, this looks like the end of the road for his time in Kansas City.
MOST SURPRISING PLAYERS: Running back Kareem Hunt. The club thought they found a diamond in the rough with their third-round selection from Toledo, but no one expected so much so soon from Hunt. The rookie found himself thrust into the starting role after incumbent back Spencer Ware went down for the season with a knee injury in the preseason. Hunt responded by winning an NFL rushing title and setting a league record by topping 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first seven games as a pro.
Wide receiver Albert Wilson. The fourth-year receiver set career highs with 42 catches for 554 yards and three touchdowns in just 13 games. His value in Kansas City's offense goes beyond the role of pass-catcher, however, with the gritty 5-foot-9 Wilson using his speed in the team's motion and jet sweep packages and bringing a fiery attitude to the field.
ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: With Matt Nagy already moving on as head coach of the Chicago Bears and Eric Bieniemy earning a promotion to offensive coordinator, keep an eye on newcomer Mike Kafka. The 30-year-old retired quarterback held the position of offensive quality control coach, but his primary responsibility centered on helping rookie Patrick Mahomes make the transition to the NFL. Kafka remains a candidate as the team's next quarterback coach, and with Reid's staff serving as a cradle for offensive coordinators and head coaches, Kafka appears in line as the next generation.