Potential Jets: Alex Smith

Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE

With Colin Kaepernick taking over, Alex Smith appears to be on his way out the door in San Francisco. The former top overall bust has resurrected his career under Jim Harbaugh the last two years. This year he hit 70.2% of his passes with 13 touchdowns against 5 interceptions. Had Smith qualified, he would have ranked only behind Aaron Rodgers in quarterback rating. In a league starved for quality quarterback play, he is sure to be a hot commodity over the offseason.

Unlike Matt Flynn, Smith's value has gone up in the past year. He is going to command a big return. He very well might be so in demand that the 49ers will allow him to talk with potential suitors about a contract extension. The last comparable quarterback to be traded was Jay Cutler. Cutler fetched Denver a pair of first round picks, a third round pick, and a borderline starting quarterback in Kyle Orton. Let's say Orton was worth a midround pick. Even if he does not get an extension, any team trading for Smith is likely to give up quite a bit. With that kind of investment, you are committing to him for a few years. Is he worth it?

If we go past the numbers of the last few years, I think it is difficult to argue he is. Smith was not a top flight quarterback before Jim Harbaugh took over the Niners. Harbaugh made Smith's life very easy. He built everything around the power run game and play action. This gave Smith simpler reads. It forced him to throw into less congested windows where his relatively limited arm strength was less of an issue. He even modified the offense so that Smith did not have to read complicated blitz fronts. Instead of reading the blitz on the fly and making a decision based on that, Smith was given a specific order against any kind of blitz he saw. This order frequently was less than optimal, but it was better than Smith having to make a read, an area he has struggled.

Smith is good enough to function at a high level and protect the ball when his surroundings are optimal. There are a lot of teams who do not have somebody even that good. If you stick him in the shotgun and make him carry the offense by making reads and zipping balls into tight windows, he is not your guy. If you are going to make a significant investment in somebody and stand by him for a few years, that is not somebody you want.

If money was not a thing, and Smith was out on the street, he would be a perfect stopgap. Given what the Jets would need to give up to get him, I would strongly advise staying away. Unlike many other players on the market, you know off the bat the price is going to be big. He is not coming at a discount.

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