Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback could be an offseason addition for an AFC West team.
Almost one year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs stated that they wanted to make changes at quarterback. After a disastrous 2012 season, it's now a reality that must take place.
Last January, Scott Pioli stated that the team was interested increasing the level of competition at quarterback to pair with Matt Cassel. After four games of Tyler Palko and the short resurrection under Kyle Orton, it was clear that the team's play at quarterback was stifling the KC offense. Despite a public declaration of interest in Peyton Manning and a few free agent targets, the Chiefs came into the year with largely the same look and feel on the depth chart.
Brady Quinn replacing Tyler Palko is not anyone's definition of making the quarterback position decisively better, so you can believe the Chiefs will overhaul the entire unit in the coming offseason. The only question is where will those players come from: the 2013 NFL Draft or free agency. The answer is likely both.
There's no guarantee that a first round quarterback is going to work out for all parties, and draft history is littered with famous busts, from Ryan Leaf to JaMarcus Russell. The Chiefs have been reticent to draft their own first round quarterback for some time, but it's clear they must find their future at the position soon enough. Whether it's the first overall selection or the top of the second round, the Chiefs will invest significant draft assets where they need it the most.
That said, they will need a veteran to partner with him. That's where Alex Smith enters the picture. On Thursday, ESPN NFL analyst Adam Schefter said that Colin Kaepernick's play in the last two games could enable the 49ers to move Smith -- either to release his $8 million salary or to trade him to a team. Those teams included the Chief and the Oakland Raiders.
While it would be in the Niners best interest to keep a solid safety net in play, Smith could be expendable and that makes the Chiefs a prime contender for his services. There's plenty of talent on both sides of the ball despite the pitiful record of 1-10. Smith has proven that he can succeed with the right coaching and talent around him, and he's a better option than anything the Chiefs have right now. Even just the addition of Smith alone would be an upgrade.
Despite the frustrating trajectory early in his career, head coach Jim Harbaugh has clearly placed Smith in a winning system. He's completing a startling 70 percent of his passes this year -- nearly a 9 point jump over last season -- with a 13 to 5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. This comes after a successful 2011 season where he had 17 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and guided the 49ers to 13 wins.
Those numbers should remind Chiefs of the recent Pro Bowl season that Matt Cassel enjoyed in 2010, one in which he was placed in the right situation to succeed and given an efficient model to work within. The Chiefs running game and defense carried the team that year, just as the 49ers enjoy now. Thus it means proper coaching is in order to establish the same in KC. Still, Smith's talent and performance is better than anything the Chiefs have on hand presently.
If the Chiefs were able to pair Smith with a rookie like Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson or Matt Barkley -- just to name a few -- the position would finally have the predictable floor of Smith with the ceiling of an incoming impact rookie. That's a much better position than Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn.
Would it be worth it for the Chiefs to throw a pick at the Niners to secure his services? Perhaps, but not at the expense of the team's ability to get that main quarterback. But if the Chiefs can grab him on the open market or for a marginal draft pick, they could secure the position that needs something -- anything -- to succeed.