When Alex Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2013 2nd round pick and a conditional pick in 2014 there were plenty of fans who said the price was too high for Smith, who could have presumably ended up a cap casualty for the 49ers, but with the regular season ready to get underway the Chiefs seem to have gotten a steal. The Chiefs went from the worst record in the NFL in 2012 to a trendy dark horse playoff pick that could challenge the Broncos (especially following the loss of Elvis Dumervil and suspension of Von Miller) for the AFC West title. The interesting thing is that Smith could have had a similar effect on several of the other teams he who were rumored to be interested in the former number 1 overall draft pick.
We’ll start with the Vikings who find themselves in the usual position of being an afterthought in the NFC North, even after earning a playoff berth in 2012. I understand, Percy Harvin is gone, and Adrian Peterson had one of the best season’s for a running back in the history of the game (a feat made only more impressive by his recent return from an ACL injury and the prevalence of pass heavy offenses in the modern NFL.) But just think if Alex Smith were under center this season instead of Christian Ponder. Immediately people are talking about how great it is that Ponder will finally have a mentor and the Vikes jump immediately into the conversation as a team that can really challenge the Packers in the North. The defense probably starts to earn more credit and the Kyle Rudolph hype train would go out of control. The Vikings have a better offensive line than the Bears, a better running back and with Smith they would have at least a more consistent QB. Not to mention we get to have Alex Smith vs. Aaron Rodgers twice a year in a battle of the ’05 draft’s top QBs.
Next we’ll move over to New York and the Jets. Okay, so this one isn’t really fair. The Jets are a mess and didn’t have the money to pay two QB $8 million in the same year, but it certainly would have settled the controversy and maybe, just maybe allowed Rex Ryan to keep from losing his cool in front of the media. Unfortunately for the Jets, Smith probably doesn’t make them playoff contenders. There is some talent on the offensive side of the ball, Chris Ivory holds a lot of potential, but Stephen Hill entering his second year suddenly becomes a much more intriguing player, and Smith probably also gets the best out of Jeremy Kerley in the slot. The AFC East seems pretty wide open this year so maybe with Miami losing Keller for the year and the Bills breaking in a rookie QB you could say the Jets would finish in 2nd in the division without people laughing at you.
The Jaguars find themselves in a similar situation. You have a lot of talent with an improved offensive line a healthy MJD, the emergence of Cecil Shorts and 12 games of Justin Blackmon with Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson as speedy x-factors, so having a guy in Alex Smith who could consistently get the ball in the hands of your playmakers makes anything seem possible, but honestly it wouldn’t even come close to putting them ahead of the Texans and Colts. Still, I have to think the fans of the Jaguars would feel a lot better about the season with Smith under center than Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne.
The Cleveland Browns actually seem to have made out the best without Smith. Brandon Weeden has looked good running Norv Turner’s offense and there’s some cautious optimism surrounding the team. Considering the Browns still play in the same division as the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers that’s about all they could have hoped for from getting Smith under center as well.
I guess you can also call the Cardinals ‘winners’ in the succeeding without Alex Smith game. Carson Palmer fits Bruce Arians attack better, so had the Cardinals ended up with Smith there would have been constant questions surrounding his arm strength, and while Smith is clearly the better QB, the offensive line and running game are much bigger issues for Arizona in 2013.
I don’t know if he was even rumored to be connected to either of these teams, but I also think Smith could have had a big impact on the perception of the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans. Of course if Buffalo surrendered it’s second round pick they would have missed out on Robert Woods, who I believe could be in for a big year. But for arguments sake, let’s say they gave up a 2014 first rounder instead so they can keep their whole draft class. Again you get Smith in a mentor role to a QB in EJ Manuel many thought would need time to develop. You also give Smith the two things he works best with, a good running game, and a West Coast offense. With Smith at the helm it;s likely the Bills and not the Dolphins who are being talked about as the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC East. The Titans I’m sure never really considered it, but they have a lot of talent at WR, a good looking run game and one of Alex’s favorite targets in TE Delanie Walker.