It happened. It freaking happened.
We all knew it would eventually, right? But that really didn’t take away from the shock of it all, at least it didn’t for me.
To me, this was a franchise-altering moment, a “Where were you when?” moment, a true end of an era leading to exciting new beginnings.
On April 27, 2017, the Kansas City Chiefs surprised the football-watching world when they traded up 17 draft spots to select their quarterback of the future.
278 days later, on a rather dull Tuesday night in the middle of another Super Bowl week featuring the New England Patriots (yawn), the Chiefs stole the show again, agreeing to send Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins in exchange for a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Tuesday morning began with Smith making the media rounds in Minneapolis at the Super Bowl.
While I wouldn’t say Smith is a player who hates speaking to the media, he normally doesn’t welcome it with such open arms, so this struck me as strange. My best guess was that Smith wanted to get his side of the situation out in the open.
First, he told Dan Patrick that he wanted to play for a playoff-caliber team, and later, he explained to Rich Eisen that he believed he deserved some say in where he landed after five years of helping to rebuild the Chiefs.
In the final hour on Tuesday night, Smith seemed to receive both, and as I now reflect on the trade that has rocked Kansas City, it is that which makes me the most content.
At the age of 33 and having led the Chiefs to the playoffs four out of five years, Smith did not deserve a season of purgatory with the Cleveland Browns. Instead, he goes to Washington with pieces already in place to compete for an NFC East title.
“I just hate that we have to play him twice a year,” Eagles head coach and former Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson already said Wednesday.
And then, there is also the compensation and long-term security, which even caught tight end Travis Kelce’s eye(s).
Smith’s average salary of $23.5 million a year will be the fourth-highest average in the league among quarterbacks, only exceeded by Matt Stafford, Derek Carr and Andrew Luck. Smith will have to uproot his family to the Washington D.C. area, but the life of he, his wife (forever #TeamLiz) and kids is no longer in limbo.
The Chiefs, on the other side of it all, will receive a third-round selection in this year’s draft, which is important after they lost a first-rounder trading for Patrick Mahomes, and cornerback Kendall Fuller, whether he actually knows it or not.
“When Kendall Fuller lined up in the slot, he allowed a passer rating of 55.0,” Pro Football Focus’ Nathan Jahnke tweeted Tuesday night. “That was the best for all slot cornerbacks last year. Steven Nelson and Phillip Gaines both allowed passer ratings above 100 when in the slot.”
Fuller joins returning defensive leader Eric Berry in the backfield, which led me to wonder if there is a better person in the world for a budding 22-year-old to be around. Fuller will likely come in to start at what was the Chiefs’ biggest defensive weakness—the right cornerback position.
With Kendall Fuller set to join the #Chiefs secondary as a starting CB alongside Marcus Peters, worth noting: S Eric Berry (Achilles) was spotted already doing position drills last week at XPE Sports with trainer Tony Villani. I’m told Berry looks fantastic.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 31, 2018
The Chiefs also save what would have been Smith’s $17 million in cap space.
Many will say that the Chiefs completely fleeced the Redskins, which may be true. I prefer to wait until we something between the white lines to make that judgment.
#Redskins true balance sheet after this trade:— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) January 31, 2018
QB Alex Smith
3rd round compensatory pick (gained in 2019 after Cousins signs elsewhere)
$5-$7 mil in cap space per year (estimated) for 3 years
QB Kirk Cousins
CB Kendall Fuller
3rd round pick (78th overall) in 2018
In the end, they get what they’ve been seeking for the past three years—a long-term franchise quarterback—and additional cap space. And the price (via this handy true balance sheet provided by Yahoo!’s Charles Robinson)? A young and up-and-coming cornerback in Fuller.
The Chiefs have won this deal in January, but let’s hold our evaluations until December.
And yes, Kirk Cousins got what he wanted, too—freedom to choose his landing spot with what will feel like a blank check. After back-to-back years of being franchised tagged, analysts predict Cousins to sign a deal worth about $120 million.
What was a volatile situation for both franchises ended Tuesday night with resolve across the board. And yes, that may change once the games are played—hindsight is undefeated—but for now, everybody won.
I’m happy for Smith, who handled the situation like a professional from training camp forward. I’m happy for the Chiefs, who fill a defensive hole and avoid quarterback controversy. I’m happy for Washington, who is getting as under-appreciated and underrated a team leader as you’ll find.
It happened. It freaking happened.