The Chiefs ultimately gave up a pair of second-round picks to get quarterback Alex Smith. They may not be willing to give up a ton of cash to keep him.
Smith tells Tom Pelissero of USA Today that the first overall pick in the 2005 draft isn’t interested in a contract with the same structure as the deals signed this year by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
Asked whether Smith, who turned 30 earlier this year, would sign Dalton’s six-year, $96 million extension with $18 million in escalators that pays out $25 million over the first two years and then becomes a year-to-year proposition, Smith basically said no. But with more words.
“That’s a tough question,” Smith said. “Certainly, I think it’s a tough thing. I look at both Andy and Kap and they’re both on their rookie deals. They’re both second-round picks in the new rookie wage scale, so what were their salaries? It’s a very different situation for me. This whole new rookie wage scale, with these young guys getting re-upped, it’s kind of a different element, because they’re in a far different situation than the guys used to be. If you were an early pick, it used to be your contract was top-tier anyway. It’s different to kind of mix the two.”
Smith is right. Though he’s not trading in the final year of his pre-2011 first-round rookie deal, he’s due to make $7.5 million this year. Kaepernick and Dalton were scheduled to make $1 million. Smith also has made plenty of money; a big but not huge payday doesn’t have the same appeal for him.
Moreover, Smith is represented by Tom Condon of CAA, whose firm represents franchise quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Sam Bradford, and Matt Ryan. With CAA client Robert Griffin III in the pipeline for a new contract and Eli Manning closing in on the last two years of his second contract, Condon surely hopes to end this new trend of quarterbacks receiving modest signing bonuses and carrying the risk of injury and/or ineffectiveness after only one or two years of the deal.
If Smith is willing to carry the injury risk through 2014, he’ll gain plenty of leverage come January. The Chiefs then will have to decide whether to apply the franchise tag at $17 million or more — or whether to let Smith hit the market and flip the switch to Aaron Murray, who’ll make a mere $510,000 next season.
Dollar for dollar, Murray could be the better choice, especially if coach Andy Reid can get the most out of Murray, like Reid has done with every other quarterback with whom he has worked. For Smith, someone will offer him a large chunk of money, since there simply aren’t enough good quarterbacks to fill 32 depth charts in the NFL.