You don't get many blockbuster NFL trades happening in January. That's because you can't actually make a trade in January. But one has happened anyway — it just won't be official until the new NFL year starts on March 14th. The Kansas City Chiefs are sending their starting quarterback, Alex Smith, to the Washington Redskins in exchange for corner back Kendall Fuller and a third round draft pick. 33-year-old Smith is expected to sign a four-year contract extension, as well.
Smith joined the Chiefs in 2013 after a trade with the San Francisco 49ers for two second-round draft picks. Smith had been the first pick drafted in the 2005 draft that also included Green Bay Packer Aaron Rodgers. Smith lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick, which made him available to the Chiefs. He has become available to the Redskins because the Chiefs want to move on to their first round draft pick last year, quarterback Patrick Mahomes II. The Chiefs also see Fuller as an immediate starter on defense, they get the third round pick and moving Smith's contract frees up $17 million in salary cap space.
For five years, Smith has stabilized the quarterback position for the Chiefs, and he is likely to do the same for the Redskins, who have been doing a prolonged tryout of quarterback Kirk Cousins. Washington drafter Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, the same year they drafted quarterback Robert Griffin III in the first round. Cousins would eventually take over as starter and the injury prone Griffin would be sent packing. But once his initial contract was up, the Redskins kept using the Franchise Tag on Cousins instead of signing him to a long term deal, creating a level of uncertainty throughout the franchise. 29-year-old Cousins is younger than Smith and has more upside, but has also been inconsistent at times.
With the trade it is almost certain that Cousins will now be the top quarterback sought after in Free Agency and depending on who lands him, it could cause some ripple effects through the draft. Cousins is a known commodity with plenty of game experience. He is a safer bet than a rookie. And there are plenty of quarterback desperate teams out there including the Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings. If Cousins were to sign with a team like Cleveland, who is expected to take one of the top college quarterbacks, that would change everyone's draft board as the first pick would now be something other than a signal caller.
And the move leaves a lot of questions out there. Can Smith continue his solid play in a new system or was he a product of the offense ran by Andy Reid? Can Mahomes step up and keep the Chiefs in contention in the AFC West? How does Cousins' availability effect contract talks for Jimmy Garoppolo with the 49ers who originally wanted Cousins? And will a desperate team overpay to get Cousins, setting the new salary levels for veteran quarterbacks just as Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers near the end of their contracts?
All of this because of a trade in January that can't become official for another six weeks.