KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The only mystery this year when the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes II was “when” he would be installed as their starting quarterback. It certainly wasn’t a matter of “if.”
That time could be next season. The Chiefs may listen to trade offers for their current starter, Alex Smith, at the end of this season.
Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding the Chiefs and their quarterback situation:
What does the Smith trade talk mean for the rest of this season?
Nothing. The Chiefs are all-in on Smith for the remainder of 2017 and the playoffs. Nothing short of an injury can knock him out of the starting lineup.
Why haven’t the Chiefs traded Smith already?
Simply put, they weren’t trying. This season was meant to be a developmental season for Mahomes. The Chiefs weren’t certain even when training camp started he would be advanced enough to be the No. 2 quarterback by the time the regular season began. It turns out that he was. Mahomes was impressive in training camp and the preseason, showing many times the skills that led the Chiefs to trade up to get him in the first round. But for a peek into the gap the Chiefs see between Smith’s readiness to play and that of Mahomes, here’s a comment from general manager Brett Veach shortly before the start of the season: “There is no gray area,” Veach said. “Alex is so far advanced from the mental side of things in regard to his ability to read coverages, to shift us out of plays and really play the chess game. He’s so far ahead of where Pat is. I don’t think it’s even close right now.”
Can the Chiefs change their minds and stay with Smith as their quarterback next season?
Of course. Smith is going to make the decision more difficult if he keeps playing the way he has over the first two games. He’s on course for a projected 40 touchdown passes and more than 4,800 yards. Those totals would easily surpass his career bests. But the Chiefs’ decision ultimately will be more about Mahomes than Smith. If the Chiefs feel early next year that Mahomes is ready to be a starting quarterback, they’ll have a difficult time resisting the urge to put him in their lineup.
What could the Chiefs reasonably get in return if they trade Smith?
That depends on a lot of factors. The biggest one is demand. If multiple teams believe Smith is the solution for them at quarterback and a bidding war of sorts develops, the Chiefs could get an early-round draft pick in return. Another factor is how Smith finishes this season. If he continues to play well, that should only increase the return. Smith will be 34 next season, so it’s reasonable to think he has a few good seasons left in him. On the other hand, Smith will have only one season remaining on his contract next year. Teams may shy away from a quarterback who could be around for only one season. As a comparison, the Chiefs relinquished two second-round picks for Smith when they traded for him in 2013. Smith at the time was 29 and had two seasons left on his contract.
How does Smith’s contract status play into all of this?
It’s a huge factor. Smith has one year left on a contract that would pay him $17 million next season. That’s what the Chiefs would save against their salary cap next year by trading him. They can solve many of their 2018 cap issues by going with Mahomes next season.