The Chiefs didn’t just solve their starting quarterback problem Tuesday, when they completed a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to acquire Alex Smith.
They overhauled the position by also agreeing to contract terms with their new backup, former Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel.
The Chiefs were scheduled to have a news conference Wednesday to introduce Smith.
The day’s developments provided some public clarity into the Chiefs’ plans for Matt Cassel, their former starting quarterback. Cassel remained on their roster Tuesday as the Chiefs attempted to trade him.
At some point, his salary-cap figure of almost $10 million will become too big for the Chiefs to carry. If they can’t trade Cassel, he will be released.
Brady Quinn, who shared the starting spot with Cassel, is an unrestricted free agent. The other quarterbacks still on the roster, Ricky Stanzi and Alex Tanney, are developmental prospects.
Cassel and Quinn were the NFL’s two lowest-rated passers last season and their poor play was a big reason the Chiefs finished with a league-low two victories. Raising the level of quarterback play was an immediate priority for new general manager John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid.
How much of a priority became evident on Tuesday. The last time the Chiefs acquired the top two quarterbacks on the depth chart in the same year was 1962, when they added Len Dawson and Eddie Wilson.
The Chiefs added Smith and Daniel in a year when the appealing options for acquiring a quarterback weren’t plentiful. Free-agent and realistic trade possibilities were mainly journeymen.
The Chiefs have the first pick in April’s NFL Draft. But Dorsey recently said in an interview he wasn’t sure any college quarterback was worthy of being a first-round pick, much less the No. 1 pick.
The trade for Smith was agreed to last month, though the deal couldn’t become official until Tuesday, the start of the NFL’s league year. The Chiefs will send their second-round draft pick this year plus a conditional pick in 2014 to the 49ers in return.
Smith, who turns 29 in May, was the first pick in the 2005 draft by the 49ers after two strong seasons as a starter in college at Utah.
Only recently has Smith become a productive player. The 49ers repeatedly changed offensive coordinators and systems during Smith’s early seasons and he was a disappointment as recently as 2008, when he missed the entire season because of a back injury.
Smith began to turn his career around the following year, but he didn’t really flourish until Jim Harbaugh joined the 49ers as head coach in 2011. Smith that season had his highest passer rating up to that point of his career (90.7) and he helped the 49ers win the NFC West championship and advance to the NFC championship game.
He was the NFL’s top rated passer last season (104.1) and was completing more than 70 percent of his passes when he received a concussion in a November game against the Rams. When Smith was cleared to play a couple of weeks later, the 49ers kept him on the bench in favor of Colin Kaepernick, who guided San Francisco to the Super Bowl.
The free-agent signing period opened Tuesday and the Chiefs went right after Daniel to be Smith’s backup. Daniel will be a fan favorite in Kansas City, having played in college nearby.
Daniel’s first college game was at Arrowhead Stadium in 2005, when Missouri beat Arkansas State. He went on to pile up big stats for the Tigers in his three years as the starting quarterback, leading MU to consecutive Big 12 North Division championships in 2007 and 2008.
But Daniel is otherwise a little bit of a curious choice for the Chiefs. He’s only 6 feet tall, which is short for a NFL quarterback. He was undrafted out of Missouri.
Daniel made no starts in his four seasons with New Orleans, where he backed up Drew Brees, and threw just nine passes.