Sean Smith became a free agent at the wrong time last time around. The 2013 cornerback market bottomed out which resulted in Smith, a very good player, signing a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Chiefs in the first year of the Andy Reid era. It became clear quickly that this was a good deal for the Chiefs.
Now Smith, 28, is scheduled to be a free agent again in March. Someone is going to be willing to pay him a lot of money. Probably more than the Chiefs. Before it even gets to that point, however, the Chiefs can slam the door on this. They can use the franchise tag on Smith, which last year for cornerbacks was about $13 million. It should be a similar number this year (a little higher).
The Chiefs had Smith under a team friendly deal the past three years so you can bet that Smith is looking forward to cashing in (and rightfully so). $13 million is nothing to sneeze at but it's not the long-term security that Smith is likely looking for. So I'm guessing that Smith probably doesn't want to play on the franchise tag but the fact is that the Chiefs can control his rights by slapping it on him.
Franchising Smith gives the Chiefs one more year to draft or sign another cornerback. The Chiefs need three solid cornerbacks because they'll all play regularly and right now they have two in Marcus Peters and Phillip Gaines (coming off an ACL tear). Steven Nelson is still an unknown at this point. We all saw the Chiefs defense without Smith last year and it was obvious that they struggled.
The Chiefs are close. They won a playoff game and made it to the Divisional round of the playoffs. Does anyone here think any AFC team is head and shoulders better than the Chiefs? I don't think so, and I'm sure many of you don't either. The Chiefs have this window with this defense where we know they're good enough to help this team win the AFC West. I'm not sure that now is the time to lose one of the most important pieces. Franchising Smith gives the Chiefs another year.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the Chiefs have a Super Bowl window and it's only this year. They're built for the long haul. They still have other players to consider such as Eric Berry. However, $13 million for a known commodity at one of the most important positions on the field is something you have to think about. If the Chiefs can strike a deal with Eric Berry in free agency and they have the cap space, tagging Smith might be the best option.