In case you missed it earlier this year (you probably did, and I don’t blame you) Alex Smith has been a topic I’ve discussed quite a bit.
- A GAME OF LEVERAGE: KANSAS CITY VERSUS ALEX SMITH
- CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS: QUARTERBACKS
- SUNK COSTS AND ALEX SMITH
And because of that, I won’t go into whether or not Alex Smith “Deserved, Earned, or Is Worthy Of” the contract he just received. I’ll leave that for someone else because, chances are, you already have your opinion on the issue and nothing I can say will change your mind.
This article is about what this contract means for the present, and future, of the Kansas City Chiefs.
For Tamba Hali, the writing has officially been written on the wall, loud and clear. The days of making $11 million a year (against the cap, his actual dollars he’s projected to make in 2015 is $9 million) while playing for the Kansas City Chiefs is coming to an end sooner rather than later. There is no feasible way to creatively make all of their contracts fit under the cap with this new deal, assuming they franchise tag Justin Houston (more on him later), and he’s grooming his replacement in Dee Ford right now.
Sadly, that’s the nature of this business and I’m sure that during his eight-going-on-nine year career, he’s picked up on that, and I’m sure that someone within the organization will do their best to try and keep him around, seeing as he enters the season only eight sacks away from being second all-time in the organization, and he’ll be forced to make the decision to either stay for less or leave for more. I just hope that if (or when, I guess this one is pretty cut and dry but it’s still my own speculation) that happens, it’s done respectfully, because if we’re in the business of talking about what athletes “deserve” then there is nobody that deserves more respect than Tamba.
Justin Houston, on the other hand, is the one who kind of gets the short end of the stick. He’s made less in his entire career up than Alex Smith makes in half of a season in his old contract, but is now playing this season for $1.5 million and there is talks that he’s just going to be franchised tagged over the next two years, which would have been a price tag of 11.455 million this past season for linebackers. I have a ton of issues with the ethical practices of this and thing it’s absolutely disgusting for a franchise to do this.
First, as a linebacker he’s set to make 2 million a year less than defensive ends, even though playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 is more similar to playing defensive end in a 4-3, compared to any of the three linebacker spots in that defense. You pay 3-4 outside linebackers to rush the quarterback and disrupt the opponent’s passing game in the pocket and funnel the run back inside towards your middle linebackers, and you pay 4-3 outside linebackers to do the opposite, hoping they can cover areas or players in the passing game and occasionally blitz.
Even though Justin Houston would be among the top 5 edge players in football if we were to combine 4-3 ends and 3-4 outside linebackers, what he’ll make is dependent on the salaries of Jerod Mayo and Vontaze Burfict than it is on Greg Hardy, Mario Williams, and Charles Johnson. When you’ve only made like $2 million in your career, leaving another $2 on the table because whoever negotiated the most recent CBA doesn’t want to believe the game is evolving is kind of a huge deal.
Second, instead of having a long term, secured, guaranteed contract, Justin Houston would be playing on one year contracts that don’t protect him in case of serious long term injury, another thing that’s important because of the position he plays is inherently one of the most dangerous on the defensive side of the ball. All it takes is one accidental roll-up by a 320-lb offensive lineman and your leg is done for, and so is your career. The worst part about all of this is instead of being able to turn down the franchise tag and no long term security, you have to or else you’re in breach of contract. If I was his agent or financial planner, I wouldn’t have any fingernails left by Sunday evening.
Finally on Houston, he’s being held away from an open market where he was bound to make more than 11 million dollars a year to make less money with less security. How sickening is that and who the hell keeps agreeing to this and the 1997 drug test rules in these CBA’s? How do I get that job, because a player who is most comparable to a 4-3 defensive end is not going to get paid along side them, but is instead going to be forced to take less money for one year, don’t get hurt deals, along side a dying position that is the middle linebacker, and other people read that and agreed with it and told you that you did a good job negotiating that deal.
It makes sense why Kansas City won’t extend him, because it doesn’t make sense for them to do so if they can get him for less money and less commitment due to a lame rule.
So, that was kind of player-centric, but what about the team? What did they have to concede to make sure they had the funds to extend Alex Smith for the price they agreed on? Well, for starters, they had to use their 2013 and 2014 drafts to move laterally, exchanging premium picks for players that fill in for an incumbent that was set to get paid, not to mention the lost second rounders to acquire Smith.
Instead of keeping guys like Branden Albert, Tamba Hali (who’s as good as gone), Brandon Flowers, and Dexter McCluster and drafting guys to improve depth at other spots, you can tie a selection they’ve made in the first three rounds to each person. Albert became Fisher, Tamba is becoming Ford, Flowers became Gaines, and McCluster became Knile Davis. The only pick they’ve made that doesn’t fit that mold was Travis Kelce, who was just an instance of them picking the best possible player available at the time.
So, the long term plan of the team was try to replace established guys with unknown commodities because that would allow them to pay the quarterback they already sacrificed two second round picks for? At some point, you have to draft to improve your team and not to try and moneyball replace anyone who wants a fair salary for what they’re worth if you actually want to improve as a team.
This isn’t all losses and lateral moves though. The big winners here are John Dorsey, Andy Reid, and Alex Smith.
For John Dorsey, he now gets the ultimate trump card to maintain his job security for the next five or so years, and that is the ability to be able to say, “well, we have our franchise quarterback in place here, as well as our running back, and some solid guys on our defensive front. We’re just a few pieces away.” If the Chiefs do bad, it’s not the end of the world because he can just drop that quote and everyone will be cool with it and give him more time to hopefully stumble on some stars and some luck that can carry the team. Saying, “we’ll build around our quarterback which we got for a steal compared to other quarterback contracts around the league” elicits a ton more confidence than saying “we played hardball with Alex Smith and we lost. He’s gone and we’re going to have to find our quarterback” at a press conference this offseason.
Sadly, the worst part about all of this is everyone will just eat it all up because the idea that quarterbacks are the most important people in your life has been beaten over our heads so long that most of the world just accepts it as a fact, even when we don’t even know enough about football to truly determine the player who influenced the game most.
For Andy Reid, he’s the winner of a quarterback who will do just enough to not get you fired, and is guaranteed to have a high completion percentage and TD:INT ratio because he’s as conservative as a nun. He’s charismatic enough to be the center of any attention that comes along, and that allows you to kick back and make up more plays with names that are so confusing no backup can possibly learn them well enough in the limited reps to challenge for the throne. It’s the ultimate job security for you, because it’s like being able to be guaranteed a 17 every hand at the blackjack table. You’re never going to win big, but you don’t have to worry about busting and you can just sit there, riding the waves until you walk away from the table.
Once again, I’m not hating, go do your thing man. Enough of these coaches get fired every year that each year you aren’t one of them, you win.
And finally. Alex Smith. Congrats man. You lost your starting job and somehow fell upwards into another situation where your defense creates more points than anyone else in the league, you have a running back who is the best pass catcher out of the backfield playing today, and you are finally in a position where you are secure as being THE quarterback for a long time to come. I’m sure the millions of dollars won’t hurt all that much either.
If you don’t agree with any of this, feel better by reading the article listed below from the fellas at AHPKC.com