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The Cost of a Quarterback

February 1, 2018
The Washington Redskins made a bold acquisition on Tuesday night (unofficially) to acquire Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, in exchange for Kendall Fuller and a 2018 third-round pick.

As we wrote earlier Wednesday, they also signed Smith to a large four-year extension and have him under control for five seasons and approximately $111 million, via a report from NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport.

Now, time to examine some other important issues that we didn’t get to in our first post.

1 – The Redskins surrendered a lot to get Smith, but a trade is supposed to work both ways and benefit both teams. The Chiefs had leverage and a bidding war for Smith’s services  and that drove the price sky high. Smith, being a quarterback and a successful one, drove the bidding price and the financial cost even more than any other position player. That’s the bottom-line and why it cost Kendall Fuller. I wouldn't have traded Fuller but many around the NFL said they would and obviously the Redskins felt the same way. 

2 – A very legitimate argument can be made that the Redskins paid too much for a quarterback who is not elite, regardless of the situation. That’s fair. They clearly felt that Drew Brees was not going to leave New Orleans. Smith was the best option on the available (trade/free agency) market in terms of experience, ability and system fit. Elite quarterbacks are almost never truly available because teams are smart to lock them up. I’m not sure what is taking the Saints so long, because Brees is elite, but if they somehow lose him, they are going to get mauled.

3 – Many critics of the deal are already wondering why the Redskins did not just wait until free agency and pursue Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford, amongst other names.

Well…what happens if you only really think one or two guys (maybe none?) is somebody you want or somebody that is a good fit in your system? What happens if that same player has three or four teams pursuing them and a bidding war ensues? You could wind up paying a lot more money (very possible) than you wanted to. We just saw what a bidding war ended with in terms of a trade for Smith, who was controllable for at least one more year. Why wouldn’t something similar to that happen in free agency when you are competing with others.

Plus, Smith and/or Andy Dalton via trade, made the most sense in my eyes from the start, if the Redskins really felt they were close. 

4 – For those that wanted the Redskins to draft a young quarterback for the future like Baker Mayfield, what guarantee did the Redskins have that Mayfield or whoever they liked best would be there at number 13 overall? If say they liked Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen in that order (I have no idea what their evaluations are), there’s a very good chance all three of those quarterbacks are going to go inside the top-ten. That would mean the Redskins would have to make a pre-draft or draft night trade to get the player they want or risk that they could walk away empty.

If the Redskins were to trade up from number 13 to say the eighth spot overall, it would/could cost multiple draft picks or a third round pick and another player. That’s for a rookie, unproven, but controllable and cheap quarterback.

5 – In the Bruce Allen era (2010 – Present), the Redskins quarterbacks have been Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy, Kirk Cousins and now Alex Smith. A true champion of quality decision making like Allen has put the Redskins in an incredible bind, because of bad decisions. 

By my very unofficial count, the Redskins have surrendered these resources:

Donovan McNabb: A 2 nd round pick in 2010 (# 37 overall) and a 4 th round pick in 2011 (in conjunction with New Orleans and Jamaal Brown trade). Plus 2010 salary (approx. $12 million)

Robert Griffin III: In exchange for the # 2 overall selection in the 2012 Draft (Griffin), the Redskins coughed up the # 6 pick in the first-round, # 39 overall in the second-round and their first-round picks in both 2013 (# 22 overall) and 2014 (# 2 overall) plus $21.11 million in total salary for four years

Kirk Cousins: A 4 th round pick in 2012 (# 102 overall) was spent on Cousins plus nearly $47 million in salary over six years.

Colt McCoy: The Redskins signed McCoy as a free agent before the 2014 season and have paid him just over $11 million dollars, assuming he stays on the 2018 roster for four years of service currently.

Rex Grossman:  The Redskins paid Grossman over $4 million dollars during his four seasons in Washington. 

John Beck: It’s not even important to detail this.

The totals that the Redskins have surrendered for quarterbacks, and I can track are these:

Draft Picks Used: The # 2 overall pick (2012) for Griffin III and the # 102 overall pick (2012) for Cousins.

Draft Picks Traded Away: # 37 overall (2010, 2 nd), # 104 overall (2011, 4 th), # 6 overall (2012, 1 st), # 39 overall (2012, 2 nd), # 22 overall (2013, 1 st), # 2 overall (2014, 1 st) and # 78 overall (2018, 3 rd).

Players Traded Away: Kendall Fuller – CB – 3 rd round selection in 2016.

Money Spent: More than $110 million.

Total Wins:  52 in eight-plus seasons/ over 131 regular season games.  An average of 6.5 wins per season and 39.6% of games played ended in victory. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (  Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN