From the FanPosts. Great read -Joel
When the Chiefs traded up seventeen spots in the 2017 NFL Draft to take Patrick Mahomes in the first round (10th overall), everyone saw the writing on the wall for Alex Smith. Late last night the Chiefs did what most people around the league assumed they would do sooner rather than later, and traded Smith to the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons. Although that was the single biggest, and most important, move new GM Brett Veach will make this offseason, his work is not yet done. Here is how the trade will impact the rest of the Chiefs' offseason.
In Alex Smith trade, Chiefs will receive third-round pick And CB Kendall Fuller, per @FieldYates. So there’s the trade.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 31, 2018
The trade itself is simple, but the immediate impact is enormous and twofold: (1) the trade swings the Chiefs from nearly $8 million above the salary cap to nearly $8 million below the salary cap; and (2), Patrick Mahomes II is no longer the Chiefs "Quarterback of the Future" and is now simply "The Kansas City Chiefs' Starting Quarterback."
The Alex Smith Era is over in Kansas City, and we should all look back fondly on these years. Alex was probably the second-best quarterback to ever don a Chiefs uniform, and delivered the Chiefs their first playoff victory in over two decades. Say what you want about his overall success, but you can't tell me that you preferred the Carl Peterson/Scott Pioli/Herm Edwards/Todd Haley/Romeo Crennel years to the Alex Smith years. In a larger sense, Smith at least partially responsible providing Mahomes such a stable team/offense to take over, as his years of excellent stewardship have allowed Andy Reid to establish a creative, innovative, and at times potent offense. (But don't just take my word for it.)
There really isn't any delicate way to put this, but Brett Veach absolutely fleeced Dan Synder and GM Bruce Allen. (That roar you heard at roughly 8pm Arrowhead time was Andy Reid screaming at Veach "FINISH HIM!" as Veach was on the phone with Allen.) The ridiculous contract for Smith is irrelevant--it only makes the deal worse for Washington, not better for the Chiefs. The third round pick alone the Chiefs recouped means that, essentially, the Chiefs only gave up their first round pick in this year's draft to move up the 17 spots to draft Mahomes. That's a Hell of a bargain.
But nabbing Kendall Fuller as well--a player many people already viewed as one of Washington's best--is an absolute gob-smacker. Fuller was a projected first round prospect who dropped to the third round due to knee concerns. He's proven healthy, and is one of the best corners in the NFL.
Kendall Fuller was @PFF's 2nd highest graded slot CB in the NFL this year. 90.0 overall— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) January 31, 2018
Fuller also fills a serious position of need for the Chiefs at slot CB.
Slot CB clearly an area of need for the Chiefs. Opposing WRs saw 132 targets (most) and totaled 1,092 yards (3rd-most) in the slot against the Chiefs. Kendall Fuller was PFF's No. 6 overall CB and our No. 2-graded slot CB. https://t.co/aTPwpvdjvK— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) January 31, 2018
Fuller could move outside to play RCB opposite Marcus Peters, but per Renner, Fuller has played less than 100 snaps in his career outside. Reid and company have fully earned the benefit of the doubt regarding where they play Fuller, but given the overall league trend towards more and more passing, and thus playing more sub packages on defense, even if Fuller is "only" a slot corner the Chiefs still got a young, talented, ballhawk of a player on a cheap rookie deal.
Further, this gives the Chiefs at a huge advantage over the rest of the AFC West, and most of the AFC playoff contenders. Derek Carr and Phillip Rivers (along with Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, et. al.) are all established franchise QBs on expensive deals. Of the "young" AFC playoff hopeful teams, only the Chiefs, Titans, and Texans have young franchise QBs on rookie-scale deals. By trading Smith and turning the offense over to Mahomes, the Chiefs are getting huge financial savings at the most important position in football. The Chiefs will be paying Mahomes five or six times less what the other teams are paying their franchise signal caller, freeing up cap space to be used elsewhere.
In reality, we shouldn't necessarily be surprised by this outcome. In one sense Washington was a surprise team, but at the same time they are one of the worst-run franchises in all of sports. Are we really surprised they screwed up so badly? Ultimately, there is no way to view this trade as anything but an absolute win for Veach and the Chiefs.
(Also, it is worth noting that nearly every move Veach has made so far has worked out: Reggie Ragland, Cam Erving, and now the Smith trade. He's been on the job less than a year, but he's on a serious roll headed into the new league year and free agency.)
Up Next: Free Agency
Unfortunately for Veach, he's only facing tough decisions once the new league year starts on March 14. The Chiefs stand roughly $8 million under the projected salary cap--for now. The Chiefs have a lot of decisions to make regarding both their own and other teams' free agents, and they still will have to sign their draft class.
The Chiefs can open up roughly $30 million in cap space this offseason, but the guys Veach would have to cut to get there would be painful. Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali would have to go, but it would ultimately be worth the pain. The only moves I disagreed with MNChiefsFan on were Allen Bailey and Darrelle Revis. I would keep Bailey and cut Revis, and focus on signing or drafting a CB with the money. Here's why: cutting Revis comes with no dead money, whereas cutting Bailey would saddle the Chiefs with $2 million in dead money. Keeping Bailey over Revis only costs the Chiefs an extra $1.5 million; Fuller's arrival makes that extra $1.5 million worth it to keep a good player at a position of greater need. And, as a general principle, it's never a great idea to pay a good player to not be on your team.
The Chiefs have their own free agents to consider re-signing/tendering, which will eat into that $30-ish million. Guys like Terrence Mitchell, Zach Fulton, Albert Wilson, Kevin Pierre-Louis (I couldn't give a rat's ass about his pot charges; way, way more players in the NFL smoke weed to deal with pain than you think), Dustin Colquitt, and Anthony Sherman are all worth attempting to keep around.
Next Veach is going to have to go after other teams' free agents, and again MNChiefsFan provided us with an excellent primer (on defense, at least). Keeping Bailey, KPL, Mitchell, Dee Ford, and Ron Parker are all smart moves, but Veach still would need to add some star power to the defense to make them formidable again. If he could make two "splash" signings like Trumaine Johnson and Sheldon Richardson, the Chiefs would have a very formidable looking defense indeed (assuming Eric Berry and Dee Ford come back healthy).
On offense, the Chiefs are by and large in better shape. Retaining Fulton and Wilson would be smart moves (at the right price) to give the offense depth, and Chris Conley coming back from his own Achilles injury would give Mahomes a big, strong possession receiver and occasional deep threat. The offense is clearly the more talented unit at this point, and only has minor needs, which can easily be addressed in free agency or the draft.
The Chiefs' Current Needs
We have to remember that guys like Richardson and Trumaine Johnson aren't simply going to fall into the Chiefs' lap. The NFL collapses into a spending frenzy every March as soon as free agency hits, and it's not a given the Chiefs get their first choices. So here are the positions Veach needs to improve this offseason, broken down Mel Kiper Jr.-style:
DL, LB, CB, WR, LG, TE, RB.
Yes, I realize that is nearly every position in football, but it's not as bad as it seems. Yes, the defense was pretty bad last season and desperately needs a talent infusion. But keeping Bailey (and maybe Rakeem Nunez-Roches), while adding one impact free agent or draft prospect would significantly change the outlook of that position group. It's the same story at cornerback: the Chiefs will be set at safety with Berry coming back, and now with Fuller in the fold one major free agent could make the Chiefs' secondary scary again.
Linebacker is more worrisome. Houston is the only real impact player of the group, and if the Chiefs release both DJ and Tamba (which Veach should do no matter how painful it is) they they're left with a bunch of injury prone or young, unproven players. Ford--when healthy--has shown improvement every year and is a solid compliment to Houston on the edge. But it's that "when healthy" caveat that hurts his value. Ragland, KPL, Tanoh Kpassagnon, and Ukeme Eligwe are all relatively young, inconsistent, raw, and/or unproven. It may not be the worst idea to punt on this group for a year: sign a veteran or two as insurance, but let the young guys play and see how they develop before making any more moves. Ragland and Kpassagnon were second round picks, Eligwe had the pedigree coming out of high school and college, and they all have some really good raw physical tools that may just need a year or two of development.
The offense, however, is in much better shape and could just use some tweaks around the edges. The biggest question mark right now are the Chiefs' second and third wide receivers. Conley should come back healthy, and hopefully they can re-sign Wilson at a reasonable price. If not, they have Demarcus Robinson and Jehu Chesson to step up.
Left guard is probably the next biggest concern, as it was a question mark all year. Parker Ehinger, Bryan Witzmann, and Fulton sort of rotated all year, and due to injuries none of them really ever nailed the position down. Fulton and Cam Erving make for nice backups (or a not-infrequent starter in Fulton's case), but it should be something to address.
The only other needs are pretty minor: the Chiefs could use a second TE behind Kelce that can block and catch balls thrown directly at his chest, and a solid backup running back behind Kareem Hunt. Neither is pressing, however, and could easily be addressed with a scrap-heap free agent (the "Dorsey Special") or a mid-to-late round pick.
The offseason is going to be long, but it's off to a great start for Veach. In one move he used a surplus of talent at one position to simultaneously get the Chiefs under the salary cap and add cheap, young talent at a position of great need. The Chiefs should be set up to take advantage of it this spring and win a third straight AFC West title next season.