When doling out credit for the Kansas City Chiefs remarkable turnaround last season, quarterback Alex Smith thinks he should be at the front of the line to receive his praise.
The Chiefs were a 2-14 team heading into the season last year when they brought in a new general manager, John Dorsey, head coach, Andy Reid, and of course starting quarterback, Smith.
Kansas City wasn't void of talent before last year – the team had a surprising six players named to the Pro Bowl after their 2-14 season – but they needed change at the top positions to realize their full potential as a team.
After finishing with an 11-5 record and making the playoffs last season, the new acquisitions deserve claim for their part in the turnaround, and in Smith's case, that comes in the form of a new contract.
The 30-year-old Smith threw for 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns to seven interceptions in his first year in Kansas City (eighth overall).
He's now entering the final year of his current contract which pays him $7.5 million per year and reportedly wants a bigger contract than the one given to Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler recently (seven years and $126 million).
Smith's value is hard to gauge because he will never put up the gaudy numbers of the highest paid quarterbacks around the league, but produces similar results to the top earners. While there's no doubt running back Jamaal Charles is the team's best player, many around Kansas City would be okay with the assertion that Smith was the team's MVP.
As pointed out by analysts this off-season, Smith's value is further clouded by the lack of a second-tier quarterback market. In terms of contracts at least, quarterbacks are either elite players earning big bucks, or unsolidified starters making far less. The Chiefs need to negotiate terms with Smith, who seems to fall in between the two categories.
The problem could solve itself this year. If Smith leads the team on another playoff run he'll almost certainly be able to claim he's joined the top tier at his position. And conversely if Kansas City takes a step back, Smith may have no choice but to accept lesser terms from the team. There is of course, always the franchise tag as well.
While Smith is waiting on his contract extension, Charles got a big one just ahead of the season. The Pro Bowl running back was given an extension that will pay him $18 million over the next two seasons, his age 27 and 28 years.
The Chiefs lost left tackle Brandon Albert this off-season, but saw the move coming a year ago and should be prepared to deal with the loss. Last year's first overall pick Eric Fisher struggled in his rookie campaign on the right side but a move to left tackle – typically the highest leverage position on the line – should help his fortunes moving forward. Fisher is a natural left tackle and will likely welcome a move back to the side of the line he's most comfortable on.
Kansas City cut ties with longtime Chief Brandon Flowers this off-season, leaving a hole – and a competition – in the secondary. Flowers isn't quite what he used to be, but is still a solid cornerback and with no clear replacement on the roster, the move is risky.
The Chiefs started the run on second-tier pass rushers (after Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, and Anthony Barr) by selecting Auburn defensive end Dee Ford, who claimed he was the better pass rusher than Clowney, with their first round pick. Also intriguing picks included QB Aaron Murray, whose torn ACL dropped him to the fifth round, and Canadian tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff in the sixth-round.
The Chiefs were relatively quiet in free agency but did add three potential starters in guard Jeff Linkenbach, defensive tackle/end Vance Walker, and cornerback Chris Owens.