Late in the day, on January 30th, the news started rolling in that Washington had dealt Kendall Fuller and a third-round pick for Chiefs QB Alex Smith. Word is that the Browns and Broncos were trying to get in on a deal for Smith, but he ended up in Washington. What does this trade mean for Smith and the offense in Washington?
Smith was quickly reported to have agreed to an extension that will pay $71 million in guarantees, with a total value of $94 million over the next four seasons. With the trade, the Chiefs will free up $17 million in cap space, and second-year QB Patrick Mahomes appears poised to take over as the new starting QB.
As of today, the top receiving options in Washington are Josh Doctson, Jaimson Crowder, and Ryan Grant. It is hard to count on a 34-year-old TE Vernon Davis or the oft-injured Jordan Reed for much production. Smith won’t have rookie Kareem Hunt out of the backfield (or Jamaal Charles), and I expect for Washington to target a pass-catching back (depending on Chris Thompson’s health) to pair with Samaje Perine in the draft.
Smith is traditionally known as a check-down artist, and in 2017, he posted 4.2 Air Yards Per Attempt (13th overall in the league). Smith outperformed Cousins in this statistic, as Cousins was at 3.7 Air Yards Per Attempt (23rd Overall). Smith did throw 68 Deep Ball Attempts (any throw that travels 20 yards or farther in the air) (6th overall), and completed 48.5-percent of these throws (2nd overall). In 2017, Cousins only attempted one more Deep Ball than Smith and only completed 33.3-percent of his Deep Ball attempts (17th overall).
In his career, Smith has completed 62.4-percent of his passes with a QB rating of 87.4. Cousins has outperformed Smith with a career 65.6-percent completion percentage and a QB rating of 93.7. The PlayerProfiler metric True Completion Percentage factors out unpressured throwaways and dropped passes, and according to that, Smith had a True Completion Percentage of 73.3-percent (2nd overall) while Cousins was at 69.3-percent (11th overall).
In 2017, the Chiefs ran the ball 405 times while Washington ran 401 times. Both teams were about even in total plays with 948 for the Chiefs and 941 for Washington. Both had a Pass Play Percentage around 59-percent.
Look for a boost in the production and opportunity for Jamison Crowder if Smith continues his career tendency to play underneath with a safe target. A healthy Josh Doctson should also benefit, as Smith prefers to funnel targets to two of his main pass catchers. A change from K.C. to Washington’s offense could change up Smith’s tendencies, but this has held true from his time on the 49ers through K.C.
We should expect a slight boost in efficiency for the Washington offense in 2018 compared to the 2017 Kirk Cousins led offense. Smith still falls into the category of a QB2 with this change of scenery. He will also be dealing with a drop off in talent, going from Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce to the Washington WR group.