Friday, March 1, 2013

Breaking Down The Alex Smith Trade

Breaking down the Alex Smith trade can be done more conclusively once Smith’s career as a Chief has ended, and the players who were selected with the additional draft picks have received a chance to perform for the 49ers. However, in the immediate aftermath of the trade between San Francisco and Kansas City, it is completely feasible to analyze what has occurred, and how it is likely to benefit both teams.

Smith was firmly entrenched as a backup in San Francisco, and the 49ers were wise to move him. Yet, Kansas City did well by securing a proven starter who will upgrade a position of serious weakness in recent seasons. He will be 29 when the regular season commences in September, and the Chiefs will have a better opportunity to win this season and beyond, then they would have experienced by allowing four-year starter Matt Cassel or former backup Brady Quinn to continue taking snaps. Smith became very efficient during the final two years of his eight-year tenure in San Francisco, after Jim Harbaugh joined the organization.

That said, Smith can hardly be considered an elite signal caller, and there are undeniable limitations with his game. He only generated 15+ touchdowns passes in two different seasons, and his career best is only 18. Plus, his TD/INT quotient was only favorable after Harbaugh became his head coach in 2011. Prior to that that time, Smith had tossed 51 scoring throws, and 53 INTs. That should be alarming to anyone who perceives Smith based primarily upon what he accomplished in the past two seasons.  But Andy Reid should construct his strategy around Smith capabilities, and the Chiefs’ offense should improve next season. The image of Smith connecting on short throws to Jamaal Charles is unquestionably strong.

Meanwhile, San Francisco’s interest in Peyton Manning during the 2012 offseason made it clear that Smith was not firmly entrenched in the team’s long-term strategy. The team eventually made a logical and successful decision to bench Smith, and place Colin Kaepernick into the starting role. Kaepernick’s subsequent performance made Smith extremely expendable, and the 49ers’ decision to trade him was extremely logical.
  How The Chiefs Will Benefit

The acquisition of Smith provides the Chiefs with a definitive upgrade at quarterback, in comparison to incumbents Cassel and Quinn. Geno Smith is currently the only option in the April draft that can realistically be considered as a potential starter for a team in 2013. And that is even somewhat in question. If Reid and new GM John Dorsey did not believe that (Geno) Smith would be a viable starter this season, then they absolutely needed to obtain a QB from a competitor’s roster. Smith was available, and will now improve the Chiefs at this critical position.  

How The 49ers Will Benefit
They were able to secure a second round pick in the upcoming draft, which will be the 34rd overall selection. Plus, they garnered a conditional pick in the 2014 draft. They now have collected five of the initial 93 selections that will occur in the April draft, and garnered these additional choices without weakening their starting lineup. Smith was demoted just before the team’s Week 11 encounter with Chicago, and was clearly going to remain the team’s backup. Kaepernick had responded to his opportunity behind center by elevating the entire San Francisco offense to new levels of explosiveness and success. All 10 of his regular season TD passes occurred from Weeks 11-17, and only three of his 192 attempts during that span were intercepted. Both Kaepernick and Smith threw exactly 218 passes during the season, but 32 of Kaepernick’s were at least 20 yards, while Smith managed just 22. Kaepernick was far more capable of connecting on deeper throws, and that enabled Michael Crabtree to blossom into a genuine WR1. Plus, his excellent mobility made the 49er attack even more potent.

Who Won The Trade?

At this point, the 49ers should be thrilled with the results of this trade. They captured two critical draft picks, and did so simply by dealing a backup who had been rendered indispensible. San Francisco now has the option of utilizing some of those draft choices to acquire a talented veteran such as Percy Harvin or Darrelle Revis. Or, they can even package some of their picks in order to elevate themselves into the lofty region of Round One. That would enable them to seize a yet another major difference maker for their lineup. If Smith guides the Chiefs to multiple playoff victories during his tenure in KC, then the perceived winner of this deal should eventually be reassessed. But for now, the 49ers clearly benefitted sizably by completing the trade.         

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