Let me first say that I am one of the Chiefs fans that is on board with this trade, even if it is for two second round picks. The Chiefs got drastically better yesterday – potentially a playoff caliber team, but that is not the purpose of this post - I want to discuss the reported compensation.
It seems like very strange timing to announce a trade through backchannels almost two weeks before it can become official. Neither team can officially comment on the trade because trades cannot occur before the start of the new season. So what could be the purpose of leaking the story this early?
The Chiefs have absolutely zero incentive to leak a potential trade before it becomes official because of the fear of bringing in additional bidders. So it seems clear that the leak likely originated from the 49ers. There are multiple reasons for the 49ers to leak the news of the trade - most obviously as just discussed - to drive interest and the price of Alex Smith up. However, that appears to be an unlikely scenario in this situation given the reported price is so much higher than what had been thought widely in the media - namely a mid-round pick.
So, why leak the news? What if the negotiations are not complete between the Chiefs and the 49ers and the 49ers are trying to use the media to get additional leverage on the Chiefs, knowing they are the only real interested buyer and currently have limited leverage. They leak a story that seems almost too good to be true to let the media and fans stir on the news. People like, love, or hate the trade, but the news nearly locks both teams into a deal of some sort. The 49ers also gain additional leverage when the talking heads in the media praise the deal for both teams as fair. In negotiating, there is something called anchoring. Essentially, you want to make the first offer and make it very much in your advantage because that will be the "anchor point" that will lead all further negotiations. So, now the 49ers have anchored the price for Alex Smith very much in their direction in a very public way and the Chiefs need to work back from that point.
You may ask why the Chiefs don't come out publicly and deny the trade if this is the case? I ask you what the Chiefs gain from doing so? The 49ers have painted themselves into a box with this move - essentially shutting down the trade market for Alex Smith. Only the Chiefs know whether or not the information is accurate. If it's not accurate and they publicly said so, the trade market would open back up and teams may rethink their position on Alex Smith's value. So making a public statement at this point provides the Chiefs with no strategic value in the negotiation.
Additionally, there are a few other reasons why I am skeptical this deal will ultimately end up as currently reported.
First, we have not heard anything about an extremely hot market for Alex Smith. Prior to yesterday, reports were it was a two team race between Arizona and Kansas City. So why would the price end up being so much higher than expected if there was limited competition. I have enough faith in Reid/Dorsey to believe they would not get in a bidding war against themselves.
Next, Scott Pioli went on the record yesterday naming some "good sources" and said that he does not believe the trade is finalized.
The one thing I have heard talking to some good sources is this thing has not been completely finalized yet. I think they are still working through some of the absolute details of what the compensation is. Because I think what happens in these trades, if you give up a pick for something or if you’re going to give up two picks, what’s been a new trend in the NFL is people generally kick picks back. Because teams don’t like to see their, even if they are going to give up a higher pick they want to get something later in the draft so they at least have a volume of picks to have more opportunities.
Additionally, it has been written that Dorsey has historically built his team throughout the draft. It would appear strange and inconsistent if his first move on the job was to trade away a very high 2nd round pick and yet another potential second round pick for a QB with limited interest from the rest of the league given the importance he places on draft picks.
Lastly, I believe all the news related to the compensation of the trade links back to a single reporter, specifically Tim Kawakami. I personally know nothing about Kawakami, but I have read on a few message boards that he has some history with reporting information too quickly and he ends up not being completely accurate.
Is it possible that we are in fact swapping picks this year, with the real compensation for the trade to be determined next year through the conditional pick (i.e. 2nd or 3rd round pick)? That would seem to be more in line with reports prior to yesterday. Who knows what will ultimately happen... we will need to wait 12 more days to find out the real truth, but I would be surprised if the Chiefs give up as much as is currently reported with nothing more in return.