[Editor's note: We continue on with our Chiefs offseason roster analysis from Dirk Scholl, Aaron Hansberry, and Joe Edwards of Football Futures. Many thanks to them for allowing us to post their analysis here. Check out the introduction here.]
QB - Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Aaron Murray
Other players: Tyler Bray, Terrelle Pryor
Free agents: None
A general look at the unit
This unit is kind of special. The spotlight is on one player only. Unless he goes down the others are afterthoughts. But if bad things happen you better be prepared. While the Chiefs were pretty stable for the past two years at the primary positions, this season may see some shake-up at the back end of the roster. Tyler Bray's injury may contribute to some to the moves to be made.
The guys under contract
Alex Smith is what he is and what the system he's in makes him. Call him a game manager. Call him way too reluctant to go downfield. Call him conservative. All fine. But he gets the job done in a system imposed on him by Andy Reid. The malaise at WR may have aggravated the situation this past season, but don't expect Smith to all of a sudden explode and assume a Roethlisberger-like playing style. While the Chiefs could cut him this offseason with somewhat limited direct impact on the cap, such a move is more than unlikely. Bringing in a new QB would easily eat up the $1.2M cleared by releasing him. Once the new season starts he will be guaranteed his next two base pays of $12M and $14M respectively, so expect him to remain the Chiefs starting QB for the foreseeable future (at minimum through the 2017 season).
Chase Daniel is a more disputable case. He's a career backup, and his performance in the San Diego game to close out the season does not suggest he will ever be more. He may be considered a good backup, but a starter?? Please ... and this is where the monetary side comes into play. He'll have a $4.8M cap number this year, $3.8M of which the Chiefs could save by releasing or trading him (although I don't think there would be any takers). The question is: Who is going to take over his role?
Aaron Murray was a fifth round pick last year. Many considered that a bargain. But one thing is for sure: You don't draft a QB in the fifth if you don't have a plan what to do with him. And the Chiefs' plan for Murray is probably not centered around getting rid of him after one year of clipboard duty. So he will more than likely be back - in what capacity remains to be seen (and will be discussed a little bit later).
Tyler Bray was considered a true find when he was signed as an UDFA. Rough, but polishable, with a big arm and plenty of physicality. Well, being injured for two years does not help the polish. He's running out of time. It's more than likely he'll never see the field at Arrowhead (including the training facility) again. He'll be a non-factor for our considerations.
Terrelle Pryor created big hopes and a lot of discussion among our Raiders friends. He's definitely not the prototypical QB you'd expect in the NFL. But he definitely has some special capabilities. The key issue is whether he will be able to mentally adjust to the Chiefs' system. I think his combination of physicality but limited precision on his throws might actually boost his performance in the West Coast Offense if he can get his brains around what the Chiefs are doing.
The free agents
There's no one there - so what should we discuss here?
Chase Daniel with his $4.8M cap hit is the only guy to consider here. If there's a replacement available he may be out the door. Some folks entertained the idea of restructuring Alex Smith's contract. While there is room to create short term cap relief without creating further issue concerning a potential release (won't happen once his base pay gets guaranteed, I mentioned it) any such move would shift the cap problem to the right. Thus I'm not a big fan of these considerations - unless it's absolutely necessary to re-sign Justin Houston and Rodney Hudson.
The starter is set (Alex Smith). One of the backups is set (Murray). Bray is out for the season. The second backup is the question.
While we expect the Chiefs to carry four healthy QB into camp, they'll release one prior to Week 1. And the decision will be made between Daniel and Pryor. We think Daniel has been dealt a bad hand. His contract numbers are only justified if he is the clear cut No. 1 backup to Alex Smith. So if Daniel loses out to Pryor he'll be out, no matter how the ranking of Pryor and Murray will come up. But even if he beats out Pryor he'll be gone if Murray shows enough progress to assume No. 2 duties. His contract simply is to big for a No. 3 QB on a team up against the cap.
Bottom line: Daniel and Pryor are competing for one slot, with the cap hit and Murray being defining features of that competition. For now I'm taking the bold approach: The Chiefs go with Smith, Murray, and Pryor. But I won't predict who will be the No. 2 come Week 1.
Quite honestly, we have no clue what Matt Nagy brings to the table. We didn't see enough of Bray or Murray to judge whether he's able to develop young players. We don't think he has that much impact on a veteran like Smith. However, bringing Pryor into the system may be a new challenge. With the coaching carousel slowly running out we anticipate him back.
2015 QUARTERBACK PROJECTION
QB - Smith, Pryor, Murray (backup ranking to be decided in training camp)