With Colin Kaepernick now under 49ers control through 2020, only two notable starting quarterbacks on 2013 playoff teams lack long-term security — the contracts for Alex Smith of the Chiefs and Andy Dalton of the Bengals are set to expire after the 2014 season, if they don’t receive extensions before that point.
As Albert Breer of the NFL Network wrote yesterday, the Chiefs and Bengals are in tough spots, since neither Smith nor Dalton has had the regular season or postseason success to consider them among the league’s elite quarterbacks. However, with no real second-tier market for starting quarterbacks, Smith and Dalton figure to pursue contracts in the same range as those signed by Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, and other signal-callers whose resumés don’t include a Super Bowl win. That means something in the neighborhood of $17-18MM per year.
On the surface, committing anything close to $18MM annually to Smith or Dalton seems like it’d be a mistake for their respective teams. Avoiding having to pay that sort of money to their quarterbacks is one reason the Chiefs and Bengals have been able to put together such talented rosters. Signing those QBs to lucrative extensions now would compromise the clubs’ ability to continue adding talent at other positions.
On the other hand, productive starting quarterbacks aren’t easy to find. There are fewer reliable options around the league than there are teams, and deciding to move on from Smith or Dalton could leave the Chiefs or Bengals with a glaring hole at the most important position on the field. Perhaps Chase Daniel or Aaron Murray could provide a close approximation to what Smith contributes to the Chiefs, and maybe A.J. McCarron could develop into a solid starting option in Cincinnati. However, there are certainly no guarantees in either case.
I expect we’ll see Smith and Dalton sign extensions at some point before the season gets underway, but there are a number of directions in which their team could go. Playing out the season and then perhaps using the franchise tag for 2015 – which figures to be around $17MM – is another option if the Chiefs or Bengals aren’t prepared to make a long-term commitment to their respective quarterbacks quite yet.
What do you think? What should Kansas City and Cincinnati do?