San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick went out of his way Wednesday to thank current Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, the man whose job he usurped two years ago.
“I don’t think I would be at this point so quickly if he hadn’t been such a great mentor to me and helped me along with things,” Kaepernick, 26, said after news broke about his six-year, $126 million contract extension.
But it’s also easy to think Kaepernick may have returned the favor by setting the market for Smith, who is seeking a new deal of his own.
“If I represented Alex Smith,” said former agent Joel Corry, “I’d be telling the Chiefs that my numbers on where the quarterback market is and will be going is correct.”
Kaepernick’s extension is actually worth just $13 million guaranteed but includes roster bonuses that can push that number up. There are also de-escalators, according to media reports, and the contract is constructed in such a way that the 49ers could get out of the deal after a few years with minimal consequence.
Corry said the Chiefs might push for a similar structure, citing Kaepernick as a reference, though he suspects Smith’s agent, Tom Condon, would never go for it.
“If you ask me to take my agent hat off, I don’t think this deal is going to have any real impact on Alex Smith’s negotiation,” Corry said. “It’s two different (situations). The problem is, the Chiefs still aren’t going to want to want to pay him in that Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Jay Cutler range. He’s got the same problem Andy Dalton has.”
Like Dalton, Cincinnati’s quarterback, Smith is generally regarded as a second-tier quarterback in the same class as Stafford, Romo and Cutler, who are all making around $18 million per season.
That could prove to be a bit too rich for the Chiefs’ and Bengals’ liking, if that is indeed what Smith and Dalton — who will be free agents after the season — are asking for. Both teams also invested fifth-round draft picks in talented, developmental quarterbacks (Aaron Murray and A.J. McCarron) this year.
“Anything over $15 million a year on the average and $35 million in guarantees, the Chiefs should not want to do,” Corry said. “The problem is there’s nobody (making that) because the middle class (of quarterbacks) is gone. Matt Sanchez got cut. Matt Schaub got cut. You really have no middle class.”
This is one of the reasons the 49ers likely felt compelled to lock up Kaepernick, provided he can play well enough to keep the 49ers from extricating themselves from the deal.
“They don’t have a viable option,” Corry said. “Once they traded (Smith) away, they were all in on Kaepernick. They were like, ‘You’re the guy, it’s your ball and run with it.’ ”
Corry also noted that the 49ers could have waited a year to sign Kaepernick, but that might have cost them.
“They ran the risk of him going out and being Joe Flacco, where they win a Super Bowl and then he’s asking to be the highest-paid player in the league,” Corry said. “That’s just kind of the game you have to play with quarterbacks. If you have one that’s young and has a lot of potential, even if he hasn’t reached it, you’re going to have to overpay him.”
The Chiefs, on the other hand, may be willing to take their chances with Smith. Despite an 11-5 record last season, a tougher schedule and a younger supporting cast may conspire to make it difficult for Smith to duplicate his 2013 numbers, even with a respected offensive mind like Andy Reid calling the plays.
“I would tell him: ‘You want that money? Go out and justify it through your play this year,’ ” Corry said. “I’d gamble with him on that one. If he goes out and lights it up, that’s a nice problem to have because then you could always franchise him.”
Both the Chiefs and Smith have said there have been some discussions about a new contract. But Smith, who will make $7.5 million this season, has said he isn’t thinking about an extension and isn’t worried if he doesn’t get one before training camp starts.
“Smith kind of has a little bit of leverage too because KC gave up two second-round picks for him and you really don’t want to see someone walk after giving up two second-round picks,” Corry said. “But I don’t think Kansas City is going to be persuaded to make a substantial bump in their offer based on Kaepernick’s deal.”
Comparing Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith in 2013
NFL rankings in parentheses
*Fourth- and second-fewest in the league among QBs with at least 300 attempts