Very little is sacred in an NFL locker room. Not personal appearance, not on-field performance and certainly not contract status, as Alex Smith can attest.
The Chiefs’ quarterback was already a rich man before his four-year, $68 million contract extension was announced Sunday. But tell that to his teammates, who started harassing their good-natured leader from the moment he entered the team’s training facility Monday.
“Oh yeah, that’s part of the deal,” Smith said. “You better be ready to wear it when you walk in. Everybody (gets on you), the whole team.”
And the guys had no shortage of material.
“Well, everybody wants a loan. They want to borrow some money,” Smith recalled with a chuckle. “(I’m paying for) lots of dinners, you’re hearing that. … (They’re saying) no one’s going to pick up the check again with me.
“There are already plans of making my locker into ‘The Bank of Alex. They’re putting a little ATM machine up in my locker.”
Smith described it all quite fondly, and in that moment, it was obvious his teammates’ support — disguised as ribbing — meant a lot to him.
“All of the players were fired up for him,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “Sometimes you don’t see that on teams.”
Which makes sense. The NFL is a business, after all, and beneath all the big plays and big talk about the love of the game, money drives the bus.
“Guy does a big deal, and you have jealousies here and there,” Reid said. “But that’s not the way this crew was.”
One thing that became abundantly clear Monday was that the extension, which will keep Smith under contract through the 2018 season, was a relief for both sides.
By landing a deal that will pay him $30 million this season and more guaranteed money than two quarterbacks who signed extensions this summer, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, Smith not only received long-term security but also the respect he craves.
“For me, it was getting something fair both ways,” Smith said. “As a QB, you don’t want to hamstring your team in any way, because you rely so heavily on those playmakers around you. But at the same time you want something that’s fair. It’s tough trying to find out what that is. ... That’s why it took a little while.”
For the Chiefs, the deal not only allows them to retain a quarterback who threw for a career-best 3,313 yards and 23 touchdowns and led them to an 11-5 record last season, it could also assure the presence of star outside linebacker Justin Houston for the next three seasons.
If the Chiefs can’t agree to a new deal with Houston, who only has one year left on his contract, they can simply franchise him this offseason instead of being forced to make a choice between him and Smith.
“It’s a win-win for both sides,” Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. “And that’s all you can ask for.”
Dorsey added that the Chiefs would continue negotiations with Houston’s agent, Joel Segal, though he added that “it’s one step at a time.”
Indeed, on Monday, Dorsey wanted to focus on the completion of an extension that had been months and months in the making, and thank those who played a role in getting it done, including owner Clark Hunt and salary cap experts Brandt Tilis and Trip MacCracken.
“I think it’s a great day for the franchise whenever you can secure a player like Alex to give you some stability there,” Dorsey said.
With the season opener only a few days away, Reid added that it’s nice that his quarterback can now solely focus on football, which is a key reason Smith pushed agent Tom Condon to get a deal done before the season.
“I didn’t want to go into the regular season with that,” Smith said. “As much as you don’t think about those types of things consciously, subconsciously you can’t help but (have) them sit in the back of your head, (saying) ‘Oh I’m playing for a contract’ and this and that. Sometimes it can be an added distraction.”
But not this time. The only distraction Smith dealt with Monday was the one caused by teammates looking to cash in on an opportunity to make jokes at their rich(er) quarterback’s expense.
To be honest, though, it was just fine with Smith.
“You get all kinds of stuff. Everybody’s kind of having fun with it,” Smith said. “But you get a lot of congratulations, too.”