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Free agent profile: Quarterback Alex Smith

Should the Broncos add a former Chief?

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Washington Football Team v Philadelphia Eagles
Should the Broncos look at a former Chief?
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

This may come as a shock, but the Broncos have questions at the quarterback position. Whether you believe in Drew Lock or not, it’s hard to call his 2020 anything but a huge disappointment. There’s already been reports that George Paton tried to acquire former Lion Matthew Stafford and he said the Broncos will look to add to the quarterback room.

We’re always going to try and bring in competition to every position, the quarterback as well.

Could Alex Smith warrant consideration?

Alex Smith, QB, Washington
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 215 lbs.
Age: 36
Experience: 17 NFL Seasons

The San Francisco 49ers chose Alex Smith with the first pick of the 2005 NFL Draft and he found his way into nine games his rookie season, throwing one touchdown to 11 interceptions. He played for the Niners for seven seasons in total and in 2011 helped them reach the NFC championship game where they lost to the New York Giants in overtime.

After the 2011 season Smith watched Jim Harbaugh aggressively pursue Peyton Manning before the Sheriff took his talents to Denver. Smith returned on three-year contract, but eventually lost his job to Colin Kaepernick. Harbaugh has given Smith a ton of credit for how he helped Kaepernick prepare for his new starting role.

Following the 2012 Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the 49ers traded Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith continued to serve as a steady hand for Andy Reid, but eventually became a bridge to Patrick Mahomes after the Chiefs traded up to acquire the talented Red Raider in the 2017 NFL draft. Mahomes has given Smith credit a number of times for how he helped him prepare.

Following the 2017 season the Chiefs traded Smith to Washington, who signed him to a four-year $94 million contract extension. He quickly rewarded their faith in him, steering Washington to first place in the NFC East with a 6-3 record before disaster struck against the Houston Texans. When J.J. Watt and Kareem Jackson sacked Smith, he suffered a spiral and compound fracture to both his right tibia and fibula.

After a long and arduous process that almost led to the loss of his leg and life, Smith returned to the gridiron in 2020. He found his way back under center in week five against the Los Angeles Rams before Ron Rivera started him in week nine. In total, Smith played in eight games last season, completing 66.7% of his passes for 1582 yards, six touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

Why it makes sense

If the Broncos are looking to add a veteran presence to push Drew Lock who could also serve as a valuable mentor, Smith should be near the top of the list. Last month I spoke with the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala and everything you read about Smith’s character is legit. Whether he’d win the competition or not, he’s the kind of guy you want in your QB room.

If Smith did win the competition, he’d be surrounded by the most talented supporting cast he’s had since 2017. This shouldn’t be overlooked as the Shurmur offense could hum with a QB playing point guard for Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, etc. If Smith keeps turnovers to a minimum and puts the ball in the hands of his playmakers, it’d provide the coaching staff and George Paton a chance to evaluate the current roster before 2022.

Why it doesn’t make sense

The first hurdle has to be Smith’s leg. Can it hold up to an NFL season? The Broncos’ medical staff would need to check off on it. Smith turns 37 in May, so it will probably always be a concern going forward.

Beyond the most obvious question has to be Smith’s playstyle. Outside of the end of his run with Reid in Kansas City, Smith has always been known for how risk averse he is. He’s the kind of quarterback who routinely checks down short of the sticks on third and long, which looks great for the box score until you lose the game.

In the past, Smith’s legs and efficiency were enough to make him one of the 20 or so best quarterbacks in football. Last year that wasn’t the case, as he’s one of the few who actually finished with a worse QBR than Drew Lock. While other metrics are more favorable to Smith, he won Comeback Player of the Year in 2020 because of what he overcame to get back, not because of how he performed on the field. There’s no guarantee he’d serve as real competition.

MHR’s Joe Mahoney pointed out that Smith was actually had a worse QBR than Drew Lock in 2020.

Final Thoughts

If he’s healthy, Smith’s appeal depends on the options in front of George Paton. If the Broncos general manager is set to roll Lock out as QB1 this year or chase a rookie signal caller in the draft, I like Smith as a hedge and veteran mentor. I have doubts that he’ll ever be able to get back to his pre-injury form, but he could make sense.