The Kansas City Chiefs have a long history of salvaging the careers of former San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks.
Could Alex Smith be the next in line?
The rumor mill certainly was stirring up that possibility Monday when CBSSports.com reported that the 49ers had, in essence, finalized a trade of Smith to an unknown team. Speculation swirled that the 49ers’ trading partner is indeed the Chiefs, a logical assertion considering the Chiefs are in desperate need of a front-line quarterback.
Any trade, however, cannot be officially completed until the start of the league calendar year, which is March 12.
A Chiefs spokesperson indicated Tuesday the team will not address rumors regarding players currently under contracts with other teams.
A similar situation unfolded last week at the NFL Combine when Chiefs coach Andy Reid refused to discuss trade possibilities regarding his former quarterback in Philadelphia, Nick Foles.
Reid said bluntly, “Nick is the property of the Philadelphia Eagles.”
Even the Smith rumor lost a bit of steam Monday.
The Sacramento Bee rebutted the CBSSports.com report, and reported that, according to its own league sources, that the 49ers do not have a deal in place for Smith and will continue to entertain offers, at least through March 12.
Actually, though, Smith’s name has been linked to the Chiefs almost from the day Reid was hired as coach in Kansas City in early January. Both Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt and Reid indicated early on that the team’s quarterback situation, considered by many observers as one of the worst in the NFL, would be addressed in some fashion this offseason.
Smith’s name keeps surfacing in Chiefs circles because he has had recent success, and because he is due $8.5 million in salary if he’s on the 49ers roster in April, making him expendable in San Francisco where Colin Kaepernick now is entrenched as the starter.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, are in somewhat of a similar salary situation with quarterback Matt Cassel. Though the Chiefs don’t have a front-line quarterback on the roster as the 49ers do, the Chiefs almost certainly will part ways with Cassel, who lost his starting job last season and became the target of fan and media criticism because of his poor play.
Cassel is due $16 million in base salary the next two seasons — a hefty price for a backup quarterback.
If the Chiefs and 49ers do come up with a deal for Smith, the asking price might be reasonable in the minds of Reid and new general manager John Dorsey.
Former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, now an analyst on NFL Network, said on the air last weekend that the 49ers most likely would get a third-round pick for Smith.
The Chiefs do have the No. 1 overall pick, but draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Mike Mayock each have said it would be an extreme reach for the Chiefs to use that top pick on a quarterback this April.
“There just isn’t one (quarterback) there you want to bang the table for,” Mayock said. “Not until later in the first round.”
The Chiefs did interview eight quarterbacks at the combine: Geno Smith (West Virginia), Mike Glennon (North Carolina State), Ryan Nassib (Syracuse), Tyler Wilson (Arkansas), Matt Barkley (USC), Zac Dysert (Ohio), Tyler Bray (Tennessee) and E.J. Manuel (Florida State).
Even if the Chiefs do land Smith in an eventual deal and surrender a third-round pick, their No. 34 overall pick in the second round likely would be high enough to land any one on that list except perhaps Smith and Nassib.
There is yet another possibility regarding the Chiefs’ quarterback situation that gained traction once Dorsey came on board – dealing for Seattle backup Matt Flynn.
Dorsey is close friends with Seattle general manager John Schneider – the two worked together for several years in Green Bay’s scouting department – and Schneider might be willing to deal Flynn, who is due $5.25 million this season from the Seahawks, who are sold on Russell Wilson as their starter.
Dorsey, of course, is more than familiar with Flynn – Dorsey scouted Flynn while in Green Bay before the Packers used a seventh-round pick on Flynn in 2007.
Schneider has made it clear he will listen to offers regarding Flynn.
“We’re always going to listen to everything and if we’re not doing that,” Schneider said at the combine, “we’re not doing our job. That doesn’t necessarily mean we will do something (with Matt).”
But Flynn could turn out to be a much more affordable option for Dorsey and Reid. Flynn has started only two NFL games, having primarily been a backup to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, and probably would require only a fourth-round pick at best in exchange.
Flynn was an intriguing free-agent after the 2011 season based on those two starts – a near upset on the road against the Patriots in 2010, and his spectacular start in the last game of the 2011 regular season in which he completed 31 of 44 passes for a Packers franchise-record 480 yards and six touchdowns.
Flynn also likely would be familiar with Reid’s vertical West Coast offense, which is similar to the version Mike McCarthy runs in Green Bay.
No matter whom the Chiefs land in a trade, expect Reid and Dorsey also to draft at least one quarterback.
“Andy Reid, you know he is going to try to locate a quarterback,” Kiper said at the combine. “He will evaluate these guys (in the draft). Andy Reid loves the draft process, loves evaluating these quarterbacks, usually drafts a quarterback. He drafted A.J. Feeley, he drafted (Donovan) McNabb . . . he drafted (Mike) Kafka, he drafted (Nick) Foles.
“This is going to be a guy he hand picks, along with John Dorsey.”