The St. Louis Rams got a fairly unbelievable return in their trade that sent quarterback Robert Griffin III to Washington, but we all knew that. It is referenced all the time.
The Alex Smith trade isn't talked about as much but it's pretty unbelievable, and will help the 49ers for many years to come.
The 49ers traded Smith, who San Francisco was never going to willfully start in another game, for a second-round pick in 2013 and a conditional pick in 2014 that became a second-rounder once the Chiefs won eight games last season. 49ers general manager Trent Baalke started trading down with those picks, gaining extra selections, and that's where it gets interesting.
The 49ers ended up with five players from that trade, according to MMQB's Peter King. Here was the haul:
- DE Tank Carradine, 2013 second round
- LB Corey Lemonier, 2013 third round
- LB Chris Borland, 2014 third round
- RB Carlos Hyde, 2014 second round
- WR Stevie Johnson, trade from Buffalo
That's an amazing return for a quarterback who, while better than what the Chiefs had, is an average NFL starting quarterback and was never going to be a starter for San Francisco again.
Carradine is a first-round talent who fell because he was coming off an ACL injury. Lemonier was a highly-regarded pass rusher in last year's draft. Borland is a tough inside linebacker. Hyde could end up taking over as San Francisco's starting tailback whenever Frank Gore runs out of gas. And Johnson is a three-time 1,000-yard receiver who helps right away. Johnson might be the only player expected to play a key role right away on a deep 49ers team, but in a few years it wouldn't be surprising if two, three or four of these players become key starters.
Whether or not you think it was worth it for Kansas City (and after Smith played pretty well and the Chiefs went to the playoffs last season, I wouldn't argue if you did), you can't deny that the 49ers did a tremendous job turning a backup into five good players. If you've ever wondered how the 49ers built one of the top two or three rosters in the NFL, and seem to efficiently add to it every year, just take a look at the Alex Smith trade.
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