Last week, we discussed the possibility of the Jets targeting Kirk Cousins if he hits the open market.
However, the various pros and cons connected with such a move would become moot if Cousins doesn't hit the open market. A less-attractive alternative more likely to be available is Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. Could he be someone the Jets are monitoring?
Smith is still under contract for one more season but the Chiefs look set to give the keys to the franchise to their 2017 first round pick Patrick Mahomes. Following the Chiefs' first round playoff exit over the weekend, speculation is rife that they will look to off-load Smith during the offseason. With the Jets clearly in need of a starting quarterback, they'll inevitably be floated as a possible destination for the 34-year old.
In both 2015 and 2017, Mike Maccagnan had decent success with a stop-gap quarterback. He used a late round pick to obtain Ryan Fitzpatrick who went on to have a record-setting 2015 season, then signed Josh McCown on a reasonably priced deal this season. Of course, in between times, the Jets overpaid as they re-signed Fitzpatrick for 2016, a move that backfired badly.
The flaw in the Jets' plan was their hope that one of their young quarterbacks would step up and establish themselves as a candidate to take over from these short-term fixes. This never materialized, leaving them back at square one as they head into the 2018 offseason, albeit with more assets and flexibility to address the position.
Smith would fall somewhere between the long-term solution of a Cousins and the stop-gap solution that Fitzpatrick and McCown initially provided. That's where the term "bridge quarterback" comes in. In an ideal world, he comes in and plays well at least until your heir apparent is ready to take over, but also offers the possibility of staying in that role for a while if it takes longer than anticipated.
When the Jets re-signed Fitzpatrick, it was with the hope that he could be that longer-term bridge quarterback but it didn't work out. Is Smith capable of emulating players like Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers and playing at a high level into his late 30s if the need arises?
With all the criticism surrounding the Chiefs' early exit, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that Smith had a career year. In fact, the only other season he's had that remotely compared to 2017 was his final year in San Francisco where he got off to a hot start but was replaced before the season was over by Colin Kaepernick, who went on to take the team to the Super Bowl.
While many are attributing his 2017 success to his stellar supporting cast, nobody would be acquiring Smith with an expectation that he's going to post a quarterback rating of 104 every season. However, he's consistently posted a rating of around 90 in every other year over the last decade which would represent a big upgrade for most teams.
Scheme-wise, Smith would fit the Jets' short-passing game and he's played that bridge role before in passing the torch to Kaepernick in San Francisco. He even compares favorably to Cousins in some areas, since he had a better 2017 season, has more postseason experience and would be a lot cheaper -- although you're more likely to have to give up draft capital to acquire Smith.
However, scan any discussion among Jets fans on social media and you'll soon find that the option of pursuing Smith is viewed as an unwelcome one among large sections of the fanbase. Given everything that he brings to the table, what is it that makes Smith such a target for ridicule?
For a long time, Smith was presented as a tantalizingly-within-reach solution to the Jets' biggest problem. During much of the Rex Ryan era, the Jets had a strong defense but their offense was held back by poor quarterback play. The rationale that all they needed was a competent quarterback and they'd be contenders had some truth to it. Suddenly "an Alex Smith" was the missing ingredient in a potential title dynasty.
Now the Jets could potentially get in the mix to acquire Smith. However, the problem is that the rest of the team is not as good as it once was.
Competent quarterback play alone is only going to take them so far, as we've seen in practice during those 2015 and 2017 seasons.
You might get competent quarterback play from Smith, but -- once again -- it comes down to the cost and whether you can get better value from whatever cap room and assets it takes to bring him on board. If there's a more efficient way to get back to being a good team, then that's the approach the Jets -- and their fans -- should favor.