Galdi gives his analysis of a Redskins blockbuster
Raise your hand if you saw this coming. The Redskins on Tuesday night (Jan. 30) reportedly agreed to trade corner Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick to Kansas City for quarterback Alex Smith, effectively ending the Kirk Cousins saga.
Let me make clear that I hope that Smith kills it as a Redskin. I have always been a Redskins fan and will never stop being a Redskins fan. I hope that we look back on all of this years from now and say that Bruce Allen and Jay Gruden made a brilliant move with this trade. I hope that Bruce years from now can give the double-middle-finger salute a la “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to all of the critics.
But I don’t anticipate any of that happening.
I hate this trade and all that it represents. Why? Let me count the ways:
1. I hate that the Kirk Cousins era now is over – This never had to happen. Imagine trying to explain this whole situation to someone unfamiliar with it. The Redskins swung big and ultimately missed on a franchise quarterback in trading up for the no. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft. But they also shrewdly spent a fourth-round pick on another quarterback in that draft. That quarterback became at worst a top-15 quarterback in the NFL over three consecutive seasons, never missing a game. But the team, for reasons beyond comprehension, never quite bought in on the guy. It low-balled him after his breakout season and didn’t go hard enough to sign him to a long-term contract after his second good season (which was better than the first), all the while making him the first quarterback in NFL history to play on franchise tags in back-to-back years. The kicker? The team paid the quarterback about $44 million over the last two seasons when all indications are it could have signed him to a long-term deal with $44 million in guaranteed money after the 2015 season. And along the way we had what I called the #ChaChaCha, an absurd back-and-forth between both sides that was as comical as it was unnecessary. Just amazing. ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter tweeted the night of the trade that the Redskins and Kirk hadn’t had any contact since the regular season ended. That about sums it up.
2. I hate that the Redskins won’t be getting back adequate compensation for Kirk – If the Redskins were never going to be willing to pay Kirk what a long-term deal with him was going to require, or if he just didn’t want to sign a long-term contract with the Redskins, then the team had to at least get back decent compensation for him in some way. Maybe that was trading him last offseason. Maybe that was trading him during this season. Maybe that was trading him this offseason. No trade will be happening. Kirk now is almost certain to be allowed to become an unrestricted free agent and sign elsewhere. The Redskins will get back nothing more than a compensatory draft pick, which figures to be a third-round selection. He’s worth a lot more than that. New England dealt Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco for a 2018 second-round pick, and that was considered a steal for the 49ers even before he played so well for them down the stretch.
3. I hate that the Redskins are giving Smith a long-term deal that is far more lucrative than what they could have signed Kirk for two years ago – The Redskins reportedly have agreed with Smith on a four-year contract extension that includes $71 million in guaranteed money. The belief is that they could have signed Kirk after the 2015 season to a contract with $44 million guaranteed. Their best-known offer to Kirk was the now-infamous offer made last May 2 and revealed by Bruce Allen last July 17: $53 million fully guaranteed upon signing, $72 million dollars guaranteed for injury. It seems as if that is as high as the Redskins were willing to go for any quarterback and now are giving that deal (or something similar to it) to Smith. We’ll see what the ultimate details of the Smith extension end up being.
4. I hate that the Redskins are trading away Fuller – You could argue that this is the worst part of all. Fuller was outstanding in 2017. Off a shaky rookie season due in part to coming off microfracture surgery on his right knee while at Virginia Tech in Sept. 2015, he blossomed into an excellent slot corner. His grade per Pro Football Focus was a 90, which falls into the category of “elite.” He was just ranked as the no. 1 slot defender for the 2017 season by Bleacher Report’s NFL 1000. According to Schefter, “one Washington player said…that Kendall Fuller graded out as team’s best defensive player this season.” Fuller is going into just his age-23 season. He’s a local, having gone to Good Counsel High School and then Virginia Tech.
And what now if the Redskins lose Bashaud Breeland via free agency? They will have lost two of their top-three corners. So much for building up the defense. Perhaps this means that Breeland now is likely to be re-signed. But what if he gets an overwhelming offer? Are the Redskins going to be willing to match it? That has not been their history under Bruce Allen. Perhaps he has his eye on another free-agent corner.
5. I hate that the Redskins are acquiring another veteran quarterback from an Andy Reid-coached team – Consider the parallels. The Redskins acquired Donovan McNabb, who was going into his age-34 season, from the Reid-coached Eagles in April 2010. We know how that worked out. The Redskins now are acquiring Smith, who is going into his age-34 season, from the Reid-coached Chiefs.
6. I hate that Smith, because of his age, is almost certainly not going to get better – One of the best aspects of Kirk was that he wasn’t a finished product. He took major steps forward this season when it came to extending plays and making off-schedule throws. Who knows what other steps he could have taken as the Redskins’ starting quarterback? Smith, on the other hand, is entering his 13th NFL season. Guys his age and with his experience don’t get better. They only stay the same or get worse. And the Redskins are paying this guy $71 million guaranteed via a four-year contract extension.
7. I respect Smith as a quarterback, but I hate his Checkdown Charlie rep – On the one hand, Smith is coming off the best season of his career. He had a career-best 8.00 yards per pass attempt, career-best touchdown-to-interception ratio (26 to 5) and career-best 4,042 passing yards. His 63.4 Raw QBR was the second best of his career. His 67.5 completion percentage was the second best of his career. He is mobile. He is durable, having played in at least 15 games in each of the last five regular seasons.
But on the other hand, Smith has been a Checkdown Charlie for much of his career. He is in fact what some people have accused Kirk of being. Football Outsiders actually has a stat named after Smith called ALEX – Air Less EXpected. ALEX measures the average difference between how far a quarterback threw a pass (air yards) and how many yards he needed for a first down. So if a quarterback throws a pass five yards behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-15, that is good for a minus-20 ALEX. A high ALEX would be indicative of a quarterback who aggressively attacks the sticks, while a low ALEX is indicative of a conservative quarterback more likely to check down and/or rely on YAC. And, yes, Alex Smith frequently has had one of the lowest ALEX averages in the NFL. According to ESPN, Kirk ranks sixth in number of passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the air since 2015; Smith ranks no. 22.
Now, in fairness to Smith, some of his air-yardage stats were better this season. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Smith went from 5.6 average air yards per completion in 2016 to 6.3 in 2017. Kirk, for comparison’s sake, went from 7.6 in 2016 to 6.1 in 2017.
But Smith still is a guy who has benefited greatly from his playmakers. It’s no coincidence that Smith’s career-best 2017 season included three Chiefs (Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and Kareem Hunt) finishing in the top 20 in the NFL in YAC per ESPN. Heck, look at what happened to Smith and the Chiefs’ offense once Kelce left the 22-21 choke-job loss to Tennessee in the wild-card round of this season’s playoffs in the second quarter with a concussion; the entire Chiefs attack fell apart.