Andy Dalton's deal – initially reported at $115 million, actually closer to $96 million but really as little as two years and $25 million if the Bengals want to get out of it early – isn't what Alex Smith wants from the Chiefs.
Dalton and San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick each got similar deals, set up so the teams can cut them loose with relatively minor salary-cap ramifications well before the contract is set to expire. They are "pay-as-you-go" deals, in essence. Smith isn't interested in a contract like that, he told USA Today's Tom Pelissero.
"I want to get something that's right that I'm going to play out, absolutely, and that's definitely a focus of mine," Smith, whose contract expires after this season, told USA Today.
Smith wants more stability, and although the USA Today story didn't indicate how much money Smith will ask for, it suggested the baseline may be $16 or $17 million per year, which is top-10 quarterback money. It's fair to assume he won't ask for less than Dalton.
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The negotiations will be interesting to follow. Smith understands that the Chiefs almost definitely will not let him go. Not only is it practically unprecedented for an NFL team to let an average or better quarterback hit free agency, the Chiefs gave up a lot for him. The 49ers got two second-round picks for Smith in that trade, which San Francisco turned into five good players or prospects through other trades. To pay that price and to have Smith walk away after two seasons just isn't going to happen. Smith and his camp know that, too.
But what happens if Smith holds firm and asks for that top-10 quarterback money, and not in a pay-as-you-go deal? Smith isn't a top-10 quarterback. The 49ers chose to go with unproven second-year quarterback Kaepernick over him in the second half of the 2012 season. Smith is a solid veteran quarterback, but even the Chiefs mostly ran a conservative game plan most of last season, not asking Smith to do too much. Smith's 6.5 yards per attempt was better than just two other quarterbacks among the top 23 passing yardage leaders last season (Joe Flacco and Chad Henne were at 6.4). You'd have a hard time finding anyone who would rank Smith among the elite quarterbacks of the NFL, but he'll likely be asking for a huge payday that is not too far off some of those top-end quarterbacks.
By saying he doesn't want a deal structured like the ones Dalton and Kaepernick signed, Smith seems to think he has a good deal of leverage as the Chiefs try to hammer out a deal with him.
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