Kansas City Chiefs re-sign P Dustin Colquitt

I don’t normally grade punter signings, but Dustin Colquitt got the richest contract in NFL history by a punter, signing for 18.75 million over 5 years with 8.9 million guaranteed. Ordinarily, it’s a mistake to commit that much money to a specialist like a punter, but if you’re going to do it, it makes a lot more sense to do so with a punter than a kicker because punters don’t have the same year to year and even game to game volatility that a kicker has. As far as punters go, there were better choices to be the highest paid punter of all-time, but not by a lot. Colquitt was ProFootballFocus’ 6th rated punter this season and he has been a top-10 punter in each of the last four seasons, something only Andy Lee and Brandon Fields can also say. I wouldn’t say I love this move, but it’s not terrible.

Grade: B




2008 NFL Draft Redo

1. Miami Dolphins- QB Joe Flacco (Delaware)

There was nothing wrong with taking Jake Long #1 overall in 2008. However, the Dolphins made the playoffs in just one of his five seasons so far and that was the one year Chad Pennington explicably finished as the runner up in MVP*. Long might not have been the wrong choice, but in a re-draft like this using full hindsight, you’re always going to take a franchise quarterback before you take anything else if one is available. Flacco and Ryan is a debate, but I have to lean with the former after his recent Super Bowl victory.

*=How weird was 2008? Brett Favre came out of retirement in July and was traded to the Jets and was on the cover of Madden as a retired Packer. Favre pushed Pennington out of New York and he was signed by division rival Miami. Even though he hadn’t done anything noteworthy since 2004, Pennington game managed the Dolphins to the greatest single season turnaround in NFL history, going from 1 win in 2007 to 11 wins in 2008. Pennington was, of course, helped by the wildcat, a phenomenon that led to new Head Coach Tony Sparano being billed as an offensive genius and to Pat White getting selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 NFL Draft and never throwing a pass in one season with the Dolphins.

The Dolphins’ 11 wins won the Dolphins the AFC East over Brett Favre, who led the NFL in turnovers, and the Jets, and Matt Cassel and the Patriots, who had gone 16-0 the year before, but lost Tom Brady to a torn ACL week 1. Still, the Patriots somehow won 11 games, but failed to make the playoffs at all, the first time in the wild card era a team had won 11 games and not made the playoffs. The following year, with Brady healthy, they would win just 10 games and win the entire division.

Meanwhile, back to 2008, Pennington’s Dolphins would get bounced at home in the first round of the playoffs by rookie Joe Flacco and the Ravens 27-9, a game in which Pennington threw 4 interceptions, more than half of the 7 he had thrown all season. Flacco would beat the Titans the following week to become the first quarterback in NFL history to win two playoff games in his rookie year. The following week, the Ravens lost to the Steelers, but Joe Flacco could still hold his head high knowing he had guided the Ravens to the AFC Championship as a rookie before losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Steelers. Except for the fact that, you know, Joe Flacco completed just 44% of his passes that post-season and threw 3 interceptions to 1 touchdown. And yes, this was 2008, not 1968.

Pennington’s efforts earned him a 2nd place finish in MVP. He would go on to attempt just 76 passes the rest of his career. Pennington finished 2nd in MVP voting despite throwing for just 3653 yards and 19 touchdowns. And again I repeat, this was 2008 not 1968. Though a down year for quarterback production across the board, possibly due to the fact that the league was missing one of its premier signal callers with injury, Pennington finished just 12th in the NFL in passing touchdowns and 9th in passing yards. Drew Brees, meanwhile, threw for 5000+ yards for just the 2nd time in NFL history, to go with 34 touchdowns, but because he missed the playoffs due to a terrible defense, Brees, my MVP pick that year, did not get a single 1st place MVP vote.

Peyton Manning won the MVP that year with 27 touchdowns and passing 4002 yards. Those 4002 yards to this day are still the 3rd fewest yards he’s ever thrown for in a season in his 14 year NFL career and those 27 touchdowns were tied for the 4th lowest he’s ever thrown in a season. 2008 was also just the 3rd season since Peyton Manning’s rookie year that the Colts didn’t win the division and the 2nd time since we switched to 4 team divisions.

The AFC South was won that year by the Titans, who somehow inexplicably won 13 games despite a Vince Young suicide scare and Kerry Collins subsequently starting 15 games at quarterback. The 36 year old Collins threw for just 12 touchdowns and 2676 passing yards on that 13-3 team and once again I repeat this was 2008 and not 1968. And if that’s not enough for you, the Cardinals made and almost won the Super Bowl, losing to the Steelers and Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, who would be traded to the Jets for a 5th round pick 14 months later. Also, it was the last season this website didn’t exist and I wrote all of my thoughts on something that looked like this. 2008 was weird.

2. St. Louis Rams- QB Matt Ryan (Boston College)

Again, nothing wrong with Chris Long here, but the Rams haven’t made the playoffs once in his five seasons with the team. In hindsight, the Rams would take whichever of this draft’s two franchise quarterbacks the Dolphins pass on.

3. Atlanta Falcons- OT Duane Brown (Virginia Tech)

The Falcons miss out on both franchise quarterbacks, but left tackles do have a ton of value as well and the Falcons needed one as well in 2008, taking Sam Baker with the 21st overall pick. Brown gets the nod over Jake Long. While Brown was extended for 6 years, 53.4 million last season (which I thought was a bargain), Long’s recent injury history has led to the Dolphins making the decision to let him test the open market. Brown is arguably the NFL’s best all-around left tackle, as no other player has ranked in ProFootballFocus’ top-5 offensive tackles in both 2011 and 2012. Only Joe Thomas has ranked in the top-7 both years.

4. Oakland Raiders- OT Jake Long (Michigan)

Quarterbacks, left tackles, and defensive ends are by far the most popular position atop drafts because of their high position value and that remains the case in this one. Long picked a bad time to start having injury issues, as he heads into free agency, but remember he did make the Pro-Bowl in his first 4 seasons before 2012. The Raiders, who allowed 41 sacks in 2007, take him here to shore up their left tackle position.

5. Kansas City Chiefs- DE Chris Long (Virginia)

Continuing with the quarterback/offensive tackle/defensive end trend, the Chiefs take Chris Long here. They had recently traded Jared Allen and would go on to record an unfathomably terrible 10 sacks the following season. They ran a 4-3 at the time before switching to a 3-4 and while there are questions about how Long would fit in a 3-4, I think you have to take him here in hindsight.

6. New York Jets- 3-4 DE Calais Campbell (Miami)

Sticking with high positional value players, Campbell is a 3-4 end rather than a 4-3 end, but he still makes a huge impact on the game. He’s not a big sack number guy, but he always gets consistent pressure from an interior position and is great against the run. The Jets had the right idea taking a front 7 player for their 3-4 defense in 2008, after ranking 25th in sacks and 20th against the run in 2007, but Vernon Gholston obviously didn’t pan out as he never managed a single sack in his 3-year NFL career, all with the Jets.

7. New Orleans Saints- CB Brandon Flowers (Virginia Tech)

In 2008, the Saints went 8-8 despite Drew Brees throwing for 5,000 yards. In 2012, the Saints went 7-9 despite Drew Brees throwing for 5,000 yards. Seeing some sort of trend? Their defense hasn’t always been horrendous (there’s a reason they won the Super Bowl in 2009), but they’ve always needed secondary help and they definitely could have used a shutdown cornerback like Brandon Flowers all along. He would have immediately helped what was the league’s worst pass defense in 2007.

8. Jacksonville Jaguars- OT Ryan Clady (Boise State)

Back to left tackles, the Jaguars would take a fine left tackle by the name of Eugene Monroe in the 1st round in 2009. Let’s give them one a year earlier. Clady hasn’t always been as consistent and well- rounded as Duane Brown and Jake Long, but he’s submitted some excellent seasons and should command a fair price in an extension this off-season after being franchise tagged.

9. Cincinnati Bengals- RB Ray Rice (Rutgers)

In 2007, the Bengals were 28th in the NFL in YPC with Rudi Johnson and Kenny Watson splitting carries and then in 2008 they were 30th as Chris Perry and Cedric Benson split carries. Benson would have better seasons, but neither he nor BenJarvus Green-Ellis, their 2012 starting running back, have ever been anything more than plodders. I bet the Bengals would have preferred to have stolen Ray Rice away from division rival Baltimore in the 2008 NFL Draft instead.

10. New England Patriots- CB Brandon Carr (Grand Valley State)

Jerod Mayo was a fine pick here, but from 2008 to 2012 the Patriots used 1st or 2nd round picks on 6 defensive backs, Terrence Wheatley, Patrick Chung, Darius Butler, Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, and Tavon Wilson and only got one 2012 starter out of it. Let’s save them the embarrassment and help Tom Brady win a 4th ring by giving the Patriots an actual shutdown cornerback.

11. Buffalo Bills- DE Cliff Avril (Purdue)

From 2007-2011, the Bills had 138 sacks, an average of about 27 and a half per season. They managed to get into the middle of the pack with 36 in 2012 after signing Mario Williams, but he only shored up one defensive end spot. They would have loved to have gotten a pass rusher like Cliff Avril out of the 2008 NFL Draft. In 5 seasons, Avril has 39.5 sacks, including 28 in the last 3 seasons.

12. Denver Broncos- OLB Jerod Mayo (Tennessee)

The Broncos were 2nd to last in the NFL against the run in 2007, 30th in 2008, 27th in 2009, and 29th in 2010. They definitely could have used a tackling machine like Jerod Mayo.

13. Carolina Panthers- WR Jordy Nelson (Kansas State)

The Panthers have been searching for a complement for Steve Smith for years. Dwayne Jarrett, Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards, David Gettis, Kealoha Pilares, Joe Adams, none of these guys have really worked out. LaFell is the best of the bunch and he’s marginal at best. Nelson would have not only given them a complement, but an eventual heir apparent, a huge need now as Smith will turn 34 in May.

14. Chicago Bears- RB Matt Forte (Tulane)

The Bears actually took Forte in the 2nd round, but they won’t get him there in a re-draft. I don’t think they would mind using their first round pick to lock him up, especially since they used this pick originally on mega-bust Chris Williams.

15. Kansas City Chiefs- OT Branden Albert (Virginia)

It’s interesting how the Chiefs’ first pick, Glenn Dorsey, completely busted, but still 4 of the top-16 players in this re-draft (we’ll get to the 4th in a minute) were drafted by the Chiefs. How did Romeo Crennel screw this up so badly that they managed to go 2-14 last season? Anyway, Branden Albert gets overshadowed by some of the other tackles in this class and he struggled in his first 2-3 years in the league, but over the last 2 years he’s blossomed into a legitimate left tackle and those are hard to come by. Given the way this draft has gone, I think the Chiefs would do it all over again with Albert if they had to.

16. Arizona Cardinals- RB Jamaal Charles (Texas)

Here’s the 4th Chief. I can’t shake the feeling that Jamaal Charles is a top-5 back in the NFL in terms of talent. Yes, he’s had injury issues and has never been trusted by a Head Coach to carry the load, but remember who he’s had as Head Coaches, Herm Edwards, Todd Haley, and Romeo Crennel. Haley gave him fewer carries in 2010 than Thomas Jones even though Charles almost set the single season record for yards for carries. He was averaging a good 2.5 yards per carry more than Jones. Last year, Charles got 5 carries in a loss to the Raiders and when asked why after the game, Romeo Crennel’s answer was “I don’t know.”

Sure, he’s had just 784 carries in 5 seasons, but his career 5.8 YPC is MOST ALL-TIME of back with more than 500 career carries. After him, it’s Marion Motley, a fullback, linebacker, and kick returner who I think wore a leather helmet (1946-1955), Bo Jackson, one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen, and some dude named Spec Sanders who also served as his team’s punter (1946-1950). Why do his coaches never give him the ball?! You might not think things will get better with Andy Reid coming in, but while Andy Reid hates to run the football, when he does, he’s faithful to one back and his playbook has enough passes to backs that Charles should be able to surpass his career high of 320 touches in a season.

Anyway, enough about Charles and more about why the Cardinals would pick him. In 2007, the Cardinals were led in carries by a 84-year-old 29-year-old Edgerrin James, who averaged 3.8 yards per carry and then, after they somehow made the Super Bowl with James splitting carries with Tim Hightower in 2008, the Cardinals wasted a 1st round pick on Beanie Wells in 2009. Charles saves that whole mess from happening and gives them the franchise back they haven’t had in seemingly forever.

17. Detroit Lions- G Carl Nicks (Nebraska)

The Lions used this original pick on an offensive lineman, Gosder Cherilus, who wasn’t any good until his contract year in 2012. In this re-draft, they use it on a better offensive lineman, albeit at a less important position. Guards rarely go this high, but that’s because, unless they turn out to be Pro-Bowlers, they’re not worth the pick. In hindsight though, we know Nicks has made a pair of Pro-Bowls, gotten a massive contract from the Buccaneers, and is all-around one of the best interior lineman in the NFL. He makes a lot of sense here to a Lions team that allowed the 9th most sacks in the NFL in 2007.

18. Baltimore Ravens- RB Chris Johnson (East Carolina)

The Ravens miss out on Ray Rice, but they’ll still have to upgrade their running back position as Willis McGahee was nearing the end of his time as a feature back in Baltimore. Chris Johnson is tough to slot. His 2009 was one of the greatest seasons by a running back ever, but everything else has been a mixed bag. Sure, he hasn’t had great blocking always, but then again, he’s still a running back and running backs don’t have a high positional value because of their interchangibility and their short shelf life. I think he makes sense for the Ravens.

19. Carolina Panthers- S Tyron Branch (Connecticut)

The Panthers have had issues in the secondary recently, especially at safety. Drafting Branch in the first round in 2008 would have helped solve those issues as Branch has been one of the league’s best, getting franchised last off-season and eventually signing a 5-year, 35 million dollar deal.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- WR DeSean Jackson (California)

I remember I originally mocked Jackson to the Buccaneer in 2008. It made a lot of sense. Starting receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard were heading into their age 37 and 32 seasons respectively in 2008 and no one else on the 2007 Buccaneers had more than 385 receiving yards. In 2008, the only receiver who had more than 484 receiving yards was Antonio Bryant, who fell off the face of the earth and caught just 36 passes the rest of his career. They could have used a borderline #1 receiver like DeSean Jackson.

21. Atlanta Falcons- WR Steve Johnson (Kentucky)

The Falcons eventually solved the wide receiver position opposite Roddy White in 2011 with Julio Jones, but remember all those years they were pretending Michael Jenkins was a caliber starting receiver? Jenkins never surpassed 777 receiving yards in his career and only twice surpassed 532 receiving yards. Johnson took a little bit to develop, but he would have solved their wide receiver problem faster than Jones would have and saved the Falcons some extra picks in 2011 and 2012.

22. Dallas Cowboys- WR Pierre Garcon (Mount Union)

The Cowboys would trade a 2009 1st round pick and 2009 3rd round pick to the Lions during the 2008 season for Roy Williams, which was remembered as the only time Matt Millen ever won a trade (damn 2008 was weird). Using the 22nd pick in 2008 on a receiver like Pierre Garcon would have saved them from that embarrassment and the embarrassment of using this pick on Felix Jones.

23. Pittsburgh Steelers- C John Sullivan (Notre Dame)

The Steelers have used two 1st round picks and two 2nd round picks in the last 3 drafts on offensive linemen, but before that they had a real problem upfront. Sullivan would have shored up the center spot for them. He’s not a well-known player because he’s a center, but he’s the only player who has been a top-3 center on ProFootballFocus in each of the last 2 seasons and he’s one of the best centers in the NFL behind Nick Mangold.

24. Tennessee Titans- RB Darren McFadden (Arkansas)

McFadden was also tough to place. He’s electric when healthy, but when does that ever happen? Plus, this year, even before he got hurt, it looked like injuries had permanently sapped most of his explosiveness, though that may have just been the Raiders’ terrible zone blocking scheme. Anyway, the Titans take a chance on him here to replace Chris Johnson, their original pick at this spot.

25. Dallas Cowboys- MLB Curtis Lofton (Oklahoma)

Akin Ayodele and Bradie James started at middle linebacker for the Cowboys in 2007. They brought Zach Thomas over from Miami in the off-season for the 2008 season, but he was heading into his age 35 season anyway and would retire afterwards. Let’s give them a young middle linebacker for their 3-4 defense.

26. Houston Texans- S Kenny Phillips (Miami)

Before the days of Wade Phillips, the Texans had a truly horrific defense, especially in the secondary. Someone like Kenny Phillips, as injury prone as he is, would have been much welcomed.

27. San Diego Chargers- OT Sam Baker (USC)

AJ Smith only once used a pick higher than the 3rd round on an offensive lineman in his tenure in San Diego, which spanned over 9 drafts. It really showed towards the end of his tenure and now offensive line is easily their biggest need. Baker has been up and down so far in his career, but still deserves to go in the 1st round in a re-draft. He could have played right tackle for the Chargers, always a huge need, and played on the left side when needed, which has been pretty frequently over the past 2 seasons.

28. Seattle Seahawks- DE Red Bryant (Texas A&M)

I don’t think Red Bryant would have as much value to anyone else as he does to the Seahawks because of his very specific role on their defensive line, but I don’t think the Seahawks would mind using a 1st round pick to lock him up here in this re-draft, especially after originally using this pick on Lawrence Jackson, who played just 2 seasons with the Seahawks before Pete Carroll dealt him to the Lions for a mid-round pick before the 2010 season.

29. San Francisco 49ers- C Brian La Puente (California)

Brian La Puente would have gone closer to where Sullivan went if he had more than one good season, but he was actually ProFootballFocus’ 2nd rated center this year for the Saints. The 49ers could have used a center like that before settling on veteran Jonathan Goodwin recently. The 49ers probably would have given La Puente playing time sooner and that could have really been good for him.

30. New York Jets- TE Dustin Keller (Purdue)

I hate not changing a pick, but this is the only time I’m doing it and I don’t know a better fit here than giving Dustin Keller back to the Jets. He was their leading receiver in 2011 and they really missed him as he battled injuries in 2012. Unfortunately because of their miserable cap situation, his tenure with the Jets is likely done.

31. New York Giants- S Thomas DeCoud (California)

The Giants originally used this pick on Kenny Phillips. DeCoud isn’t as good as Phillips, but he would have been more reliable and Phillips isn’t available anyway. Don’t let DeCoud’s 6 interceptions in 2012 fool you. He had just 8 in his first 4 seasons and is among the worst tackling safeties in the NFL. Still, he’s good enough here to go to the Giants at a position of need.




Top-10 Best Contracts in the NFL

Top-10 best contracts in the NFL

1. QB Russell Wilson (Seattle): 3 years, 1.987 million remaining

You could make a case for Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin here, but Luck and Griffin are making 3 times as much money as Wilson and Wilson has still two more years left on his deal before he becomes eligible for a monster extension, while Kaepernick will probably get one next off-season.

2. QB Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco): 2 years, 1.713 million remaining

Kaepernick will probably get a monster extension next off-season, but for now the 49ers can enjoy having him signed for less than a million dollars for 2013. He’s not necessarily a better player than Luck and Griffin, but if you take salaries into account, I think Kaepernick has to be the choice.

3. QB Andrew Luck (Indianapolis): 3 years, 7.198 million remaining

Griffin won Rookie of the Year over Luck and rightfully so and he’s also a little bit cheaper than Luck, but long term, I think it’d rather have Luck than Griffin solely because of Griffin’s knees. Griffin’s chances of a career ending injury sometime in the next 5 years are infinitely greater than Luck’s, unfortunately.

4. QB Robert Griffin (Washington): 3 years, 6.928 million remaining

However, Griffin still checks in at #4 and I would argue, totally healthy, he’s the best player of the 4 mentioned thus far. The Redskins built their entire offense around him and mortgaged their entire future for him by giving up 3 1st rounders and he delivered, at least before he got hurt, dragging his team into the playoffs and having 8 combined interceptions and fumbles to Luck’s 27. He also didn’t have nearly the supporting cast Wilson and Kaepernick had.

5. DE JJ Watt (Houston): 2 years, 3.304 million remaining

Watt can’t be in the top-4 because he’s not a quarterback and, at the end of the day, you’d rather have a ridiculously cheap, ridiculously young, ridiculously talented quarterback than anyone at any other position. However, Watt forced himself into the top-5 by submitting arguably the best single season a defensive lineman has ever had last year and doing so at the age of 23. Watt almost broke Michael Strahan’s single season sack record and did so from an interior position and set the NFL single season record for most combined sacks and swats. He was also ProFootballFocus’ highest rated player in their 5 year history.

6. QB Tom Brady (New England): 5 years, 57 million remaining

Sure he’s making a lot more than the 5 guys named above him, but anytime you can get a proven Super Bowl quarterback for the deal Brady just gave the Patriots, you have to be pretty happy about that. Plus, while the 5 guys listed above will all get massive extensions in the next 2-3 years, Brady will be signed this cheaply for the rest of his career. Yeah, he’s older, but he’s arguably more valuable right now than any of the 5 mentioned above and in 2-3 years he’ll still be cheaper than all of them. For that reason, you could actually make a case for him at #1.

7. QB Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay): 2 years, 19.75 million remaining

I’m not saying Brady is a better player than Rodgers (it’s a debate) or that he’s younger (not a debate) and or that currently makes less per season (also not a debate). However, while Brady is locked in at his current salary for the remainder of his career, Rodgers will likely become the highest paid player in NFL history sometime in the next 2 off-seasons as his current bargain of a contract reaches its end.

8. OLB Von Miller (Denver): 2 years, 5.523 million remaining

None of these remaining three players are franchise quarterbacks or JJ Watt, but they’re still ridiculous bargains. Miller was the only other player to receive a defensive player of the year vote this season other than Watt and 9 times out of 10, he would have won it. Like Watt, he still has one more ridiculously cheap year before he’s eligible for a massive extension.

9. OLB Aldon Smith (San Francisco): 2 years, 4.019 million remaining

Miller gets the nod over Smith because, while he’s more expensive, he’s also far less one-dimensional. Smith can get to the quarterback, but doesn’t play the run or cover like Miller and his lack of pass rush production after Justin Smith got hurt late last season is concerning. Still, he’s a fantastic bargain for at least one more year before he’s eligible for a massive extension.

10. DT Geno Atkins (Cincinnati): 1 year, 575K remaining

Atkins, like Miller, would have been the defensive player of the year 9 times out of 10. Atkins’ 2012 was the highest rated season for a defensive lineman not named Watt in ProFootballFocus’ history. Unfortunately, he is eligible for a massive extension this off-season and the Bengals may end up having to pay him a lot more than 575K this season. Because of his position, however, they could let him play out his contract and franchise him fairly inexpensively next off-season. This is the best defensive tackle in the game.

Apologies to:

QB Cam Newton (Carolina): 2 years, 5.755 million remaining

He would have been in the top-10 a year ago, but performances by Wilson, Kaepernick, Luck, and Griffin in 2012 all push him out as he had just a little bit of a sophomore slump in 2012.

OLB Clay Matthews (Green Bay): 1 year, 3.730 million remaining

Like Newton, he would have been in the top-10 last year, but with just one year remaining on his rookie deal, he’ll either get a massive extension this off-season or a massive contract next off-season on the open market or be franchised at a high price. The Packers want to make sure it’s the first one and that he doesn’t hit the open market, but that’s what separates him from the guys in the top-10, with the exception of Geno Atkins. All of those guys will be incredibly cheap for at least one more year.

CB Richard Sherman (Seattle): 2 years, 1.200 million remaining

He might not be the best cornerback in the league (he might be though), but when you consider that he’s under contract for just 550K in 2013 and 650K in 2014, while Darrelle Revis is owed 6 million in 2013 in the final year of his deal and that the Jets may trade him to avoid having to pay him a megadeal, Sherman is easily the best value among the NFL’s cornerbacks. You could easily make a case for him to be in the top-10.

RB Alfred Morris (Washington): 3 years, 1.710 million remaining

Morris is another guy you could make a case for in the top-10. If not for Griffin, Luck, and Wilson, Morris could have easily been rookie of the year this year and he’s signed ridiculously cheaply for at least 2 more years just like the aforementioned trio. However, you can’t ignore his position and the incredibly short shelf life running backs tend to have.


San Francisco 49ers trade QB Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs

Trade for Chiefs: I was stunned when I saw what the 49ers got for Alex Smith. When news that the 49ers and Chiefs likely had a deal in place for Alex Smith broke, it was rumored that they got anything from a 3rd to 5th rounder. Reports leading up to the trade said that the 49ers wouldn’t get anything more than a mid-round pick, including a Sacramento Bee report on Wednesday Morning, hours before the compensation was announced, that said the 49ers wouldn’t get anything more than a 4th rounder.

That made sense. Smith was a free agent last off-season and teams weren’t exactly lining up to pay him. Owed 16 million over the final 2 years of his contract, it made sense that teams didn’t want to pony up a high pick for a quarterback that, without San Francisco’s great coaching staff and great supporting cast, would probably not be a whole lot better than he was in 2009 and 2010.

Sure, last off-season was a better quarterback draft, but there were also more quarterback needy teams. Teams like Miami and Seattle have since found guys to satisfy their need at the quarterback position, while very few new teams became quarterback needy. The Cardinals are one of those as they seem interested in giving up on Kevin Kolb, but they were never a realistic destination for Smith because they play in the 49ers’ division. The other team is the Bills, but they seem to be much more interested in going the young quarterback route after finally acknowledging that Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the long term solution.

The Jets and Jaguars remain either uninterested (Jaguars) or financially unable (Jets) to find an upgrade for their current quarterback. With the Cardinals not being a realistic suitor, the only realistic destinations for Smith were Kansas City and Cleveland. Other teams might have expressed interest, but I don’t see why a team ended up giving up significantly more than a mid-round pick to pay a guy that teams weren’t lining up to pay last off-season. The 49ers’ haul in this deal is the 34th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and a conditional mid round pick in 2014.

I like the fit of Smith in Kansas City, a lot. First, Andy Reid’s west coast offense plays much more to the strengths of the weak armed Smith than the downfield throw based offenses of Norv Turner in Cleveland and Bruce Arians in Arizona. Second, the Chiefs needed a quarterback upgrade probably more than any other team in the NFL and this was an awful off-season for that to be the case.

This is a talented team. People laughed when it was announced that they had 5 Pro-Bowlers, but they do have a lot of Pro-Bowl caliber players. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali are among the two best bookend pass rushers in the NFL. Brandon Flowers is at least a top-10 cornerback in the NFL, maybe top-5. Derrick Johnson is one of the best middle linebackers and Jamaal Charles one of the best running backs. Jon Asamoah is one of the league’s best young interior linemen and don’t forget about left tackle Branden Albert and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. Both are among the top free agents at their respective positions this off-season even though both are loaded positions in this free agency class. At least one of those two should be back in 2013.

If the NFL were a “who has the most good players” contest, the Chiefs would be up there among the best in the NFL, but it’s not. It’s a team game and a quarterback based league and when you’re as poorly coached and poorly quarterbacked as the Chiefs were in 2013 and lose the turnover battle at a near record rate (-24), you’re not going to win a lot of games.

Andy Reid fixes the Head Coach thing and will be good for Alex Smith. He’s not Jim Harbaugh, but for all of his flaws, he’s always been great with quarterbacks. He was able to trade Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and AJ Feeley for a 2nd rounder each and none of the three did anything even remotely positive for their next team after being traded. Meanwhile, he turned Michael Vick from aging jail bum to a legitimate starting quarterback until last year when age just caught up too much.

Alex Smith stabilizes the quarterback situation and should stabilize their turnover situation (something that generally stabilizes in the long run anyway). The key word is stabilizes. I don’t think Alex Smith is a long term solution. He’s a two year stopgap for a quarterback that the Chiefs hopefully draft in stronger quarterback classes in 2014 or 2015. The Chiefs can make the playoffs this year. The AFC sucks and they have enough talent with the quarterback position stabilized to win 9 or 10 games against a last place schedule in the inferior AFC.

However, if they ever get to the playoffs, Alex Smith will be the limiting factor like he was in San Francisco. Alex Smith is not a franchise quarterback. He’s a stopgap that can win you a Super Bowl if absolutely everything is right and I mean everything like it was in San Francisco, from their league’s #1 scoring defense, to the league’s best top to bottom coaching staff, to all the offensive supporting talent on the offensive line, in the running game, and even in the receiving game.

The Chiefs can make the playoffs with him just like they made the playoffs in 2010 with Matt Cassel. They can follow that model, conservative offensive, good running game, good defense, win the turnover battle, easy schedule. But like with Matt Cassel in 2010, he wouldn’t deserve most of the credit because all that will prove is that Alex Smith is a tremendous upgrade over Brady Quinn and the 2012 version of Matt Cassel and considering those two combined to turn it over 23 times to 8 touchdowns last year, that’s not saying much.

Expect Smith’s numbers to be improved over his 60% completion percentage, 6.6 YPA, and 32 touchdowns to 22 interceptions from 2009 to 2010, but not drastically. The real danger is if the Chiefs do what they did after the 2010 season with Cassel, give him too much credit, and put all of their faith in him going forward. Cassel was not the reason they had success in 2010 and if the Chiefs realized that they could have had either Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick with their late first round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

The Chiefs can have success in 2013 with Alex Smith, but it’s important they don’t repeat the same mistake. The 2014 quarterback class is deep enough that the Chiefs can draft a franchise quarterback in the 15 to 22 range and Smith will allow them to ease that quarterback along like the 49ers did with Kaepernick. But he’s not a franchise quarterback and for that reason, as good as the fit is, they overpaid.

Grade: C

Trade for 49ers: This one is much more straight forward. The 49ers weren’t using Alex Smith. While he’s probably top-20 NFL quarterback, he was clearly the 2nd best quarterback on the 49ers’ roster and while it’s nice to have an insurance policy like Smith, at 8.5 million, Smith just wasn’t worth it to the 49ers. And that’s before you even get into the possibility of a quarterback controversy arising the moment Kaepernick has a bad game. It’s just not worth it. If the 49ers had been unable to trade Smith, they probably just would have cut him. That’s not completely realistic. There was a market for him, but getting back a high 2nd rounder and a future mid round pick is a great haul. It’s not quite the Bengals getting a 1st and a 2nd for Carson Palmer, but it’s up there.

In addition to the picks they get in this deal, this trade gives the 49ers tremendous financial freedom. They are expected, once compensatory picks are in, to have 15 picks in the 2013 NFL Draft and I don’t think they have space on their roster for much more than half of those guys. They’ll make some moves. Ordinarily, trading up would be an option, but this is an awful draft class in terms of elite talent. Top-10 picks aren’t going to be worth what they usually are.

So the obvious other option is trading for a big time veteran like Percy Harvin or Darrelle Revis. Adding one of those two could hurt their ability to extend all of their young talent in the future, but when you’re in the position the 49ers are right now, I say you make it work under the cap for the next 2 years and figure out the rest later. Because of this trade, they have the draft picks and financial freedom to get that done and that’s worth so much more than Alex Smith would have been to them.

Grade: A

What this means for the NFL Draft: The most obvious thing it means is that Geno Smith is no longer a candidate for the first overall pick. The likelihood of him being that pick was dwindling in the days leading up to this trade, but that was just in expectation of this move being made. I still argue that if the Chiefs had been sitting there on draft day without a quarterback, they would have had to take Smith. While this is a poor quarterback class and Smith is not worth the #1 pick, their other option would have been taking a quarterback in the 2nd round. Despite recent successes of Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, and Russell Wilson, 2nd day quarterbacks becoming starters is incredibly rare and I think given the nature of this quarterback class, it’s going to be close to impossible this year.

Given what the Chiefs gave up for Smith, it’s also unlikely they use a high pick on a quarterback at all. For one, they don’t have a 2nd rounder so using their 3rd rounder on a quarterback when they have other pressing needs just wouldn’t make sense. Two, Smith is their starter this year. They believe in him. Any quarterback they draft will be a pure backup and I can’t see them taking one until the 4th, probably the 5th round. That will need to bring in another quarterback considering the only other one on their roster aside from the soon to be released Matt Cassel is Ricky Stanzi, who has never taken an NFL snap and couldn’t even get on the field behind the quarterback’s terrible quarterbacks last year. However, they won’t use a premium pick on one until 2014 at the earliest.

Luke Joeckel becomes the obvious choice at #1. He’s the consensus top talent in this draft class, but remember, the Chiefs can still re-sign Branden Albert. If they do that, they could still take Joeckel, but an offensive lineman is not worth the first pick unless it’s a left tackle and since Joeckel would either be playing another position or displacing someone who is already a strong left tackle, I don’t think he’d be worth that pick.

The Chiefs will try like crazy to move down and they could entice a team like Philadelphia to move up for Joeckel, but as I just said, this is a bad year for elite talent so I don’t expect much wheeling and dealing in the top-10, certainly not like last year. If Albert is re-signed, a defensive lineman like Sharrif Floyd or (if healthy) Star Lotulelei makes a lot of sense, as could a cornerback like DeMarcus Milliner. A cornerback hasn’t gone in the top-4 since 1997, but if it’s going to happen, at makes sense that it would happen in a draft like this.

As for the 49ers, they have a lot of picks and not a lot of needs and even if they trade for Harvin or Revis, that will remain the case. As everything currently stands, Tavon Austin makes a ton of sense for them at 31 if he’s still available. With Randy Moss being a free agent and Mario Manningham tearing his ACL, all they are left with at wide receiver behind Michael Crabtree is AJ Jenkins. While they still believe in the future of the 2012 1st round pick, he’s inexperienced and they need depth. Austin would be a perfect fit in their offense based on speed, deception, and misdirection.

Other draft needs include a young defensive lineman. Isaac Sopoaga and Justin Smith are both over 30 and the former is a free agent this off-season, with the latter being a free agent next off-season. They may need a tight end if Delanie Walker leaves as a free agent and a safety if Dashon Goldson leaves as a free agent. Cornerback depth is needed as Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown could both not be back with the team in 2014, Rogers as a cap casualty and Brown as a free agent.

As good as their offensive line is, Jonathan Goodwin at center will be in a contract year in 2013, his age 35 season and they don’t have an obvious successor. He might not even be back next season, owed 3.7 million, though his level of play last season should be enough to save his roster spot. Also expect them to use a mid-round pick on a younger, cheaper backup quarterback who fits their scheme better, someone like EJ Manuel, Matt Scott, or Zac Dysert. The only other quarterback on their roster right now is Scott Tolzien, who completely lacks experience and mobility. Harbaugh’s former quarterback in San Diego, Josh Johnson, could be another option as a mobile backup quarterback.


Baltimore Ravens re-sign QB Joe Flacco

I hate when teams overpay based off of a short period of uncharacteristically strong play. I always like to consider where a guy was a year ago when grading moves. Well with Joe Flacco, you don’t even have to consider where he was a year ago. All you have to do is consider where he was 4 games ago. Going into January, he might not have gotten 60 million total on a contract (somewhere around 4 years, 60 million would have been reasonable).

Now he gets 60 million guaranteed and becomes the highest paid quarterback in NFL history in terms of yearly salary, guaranteed money, and total value of contract. His 6 year, 120.6 million dollar deal surpasses Drew Brees’ 5 year, 100 million dollar deal from last off-season. As good as he was in the playoffs, he does not deserve to be the highest paid quarterback in the NFL and in that way, he is “overpaid.”

However, the Ravens didn’t have a choice, which is why this still gets a good grade. Yes, if you compare this contract to other contracts of top level quarterbacks, they overpaid, but if you compare it to what Flacco or any of those top level quarterbacks could have gotten on the open market, this is a good deal. You can’t grade a top level quarterback’s contract by comparing it to the contracts of his peers because they’re all underpaid too. They just never get the chance to hit the open market. If they did, they’d command a fortune.

For example, Peyton Manning was coming off of 4 neck surgeries last off-season and still got 19 million yearly from the Broncos and was offered 25 million by the Titans. While Flacco is not the top quarterback in the NFL, I’m sure there’s more than a handful of teams out there that wish they had the chance to make Joe Flacco the highest paid quarterback in NFL history. If more than a handful of teams would have been willing to pay it, a player is worth it. Period.

Finally, while Flacco’s post-season performance was uncharacteristic, it can be explained. It might be more than a fluke, but rather a sign of things to come. Flacco blossomed as soon as longtime offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was fired and replaced with Jim Caldwell. Cameron took a lot of criticism over the years for not using Ray Rice enough, but that wasn’t his biggest issue. They didn’t really run any more with Jim Caldwell than they did with Cameron and if anything, Caldwell gave Rice fewer touches because Bernard Pierce became more involved in the offense. The best thing Caldwell did was he opened the playbook up and let Flacco throw downfield more often.

Flacco might be the best deep ball thrower in the NFL and might have the strongest arm. This season, including playoffs, he completed 50 of 123 for 1622 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions on throws 20+ yards downfield, which is nuts. He’s never going to have elite accuracy, but he might be even more accurate 20 yards downfield than 10. He always looked like he was holding something back under Cameron and now that he’s gone, it’s no (huge) surprise Flacco played as well as he did in the post-season. He’ll probably never do what Aaron Rodgers did after winning his first Super Bowl, setting the NFL QB rating record and winning the MVP, but he can at least do what Eli Manning did after winning his first in 2008. He’s a top-7 quarterback, a franchise guy, and he’s worth this contract.

Grade: A