The Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to the first trade of the 2018 offseason, which hasn’t even started yet. The Redskins will acquire quarterback Alex Smith, ESPN has confirmed, allowing them to part ways with previous starter Kirk Cousins. The Kansas City Star first reported the trade, which can’t become official until the start of the league year on March 14. The Redskins would give Kansas City a third-round pick and Redskins cornerback Kendall Fuller as compensation, sources told ESPN. ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen also reported that Smith would sign a four-year extension with the Redskins, averaging $23.5 million per year with $71 million in guaranteed money.

Fuller is the player that made the trade for Alex Smith possible, according to Schefter. The Chiefs view Fuller as a bona fide starter, to go along with the third-round pick they’re receiving. At least six other teams expressed interest in Smith, according to Schefter.

The move likely gives Washington a cheaper alternative to Cousins at quarterback. Cousins is a pending free agent and made it clear that he did not want to strike a deal before free agency began. During multiple appearances on Radio Row at the Super Bowl Tuesday, Cousins reiterated what he had said all along this offseason: He would wait to see if the Redskins tagged him by the March 6 deadline before deciding what would come next. But a third franchise tag would have cost them $34.5 million and the transition tag would have cost them $28.8 million. Now, Cousins can hit free agency and the Redskins will receive a third-round compensatory pick in 2019. The fear for Washington was that paying Cousins perhaps more than $25 million per year would have handcuffed them in making other moves.

The Redskins have approximately $52 million in cap space available for 2018. It’s uncertain yet how much Smith will cost against the cap in 2018, but it will be cheaper for Washington than tagging Cousins.

Signs have pointed for some time that the Chiefs would trade Smith, their starting quarterback since he was acquired in 2013. Last year they traded up in the first round to draft Patrick Mahomes, who looked ready to become a regular in the one game he started this season. The Chiefs also need some salary-cap relief and would save $17 million by trading Smith.

Smith, 33, came to the Chiefs in a 2013 trade that sent two second-round draft picks to the San Francisco 49ers. He not only stabilized what had been a shaky position for the Chiefs — seven different players started a game for the Chiefs at quarterback over the six seasons prior to Smith’s arrival — but he guided the team to the playoffs in four of his five seasons. The Chiefs won the AFC West in each of the past two seasons. But Smith was only 1-4 with the Chiefs in the playoffs and couldn’t guide them past the divisional round. The Chiefs scored just 16 points in their 2016 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and were shut out in the second half of their postseason defeat against the Tennessee Titans last year.

The Chiefs last year drafted a quarterback, Mahomes, in the first round for the first time in 34 years. That signaled the beginning of the end of Smith’s time with the Chiefs. Smith responded with his best NFL season. He was the NFL’s top-rated passer with a 104.7 rating and set career records with 4,042 yards and 26 touchdown passes. Smith spent the first eight seasons of his career with the 49ers. He was having at the time his best NFL season in 2012 when he was injured and then benched late in the year in favor of Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers went on that season to the Super Bowl with Smith as a backup. The 49ers drafted Smith with the first overall pick in 2005.

All things considered, the Redskins may wish they would have just signed Cousins to a long term extension when all is said and done. Instead of giving a $94 million to a 33-year-old who has never gotten his team over the postseason hump, it might have made more sense to just have extended Cousins back in the 2016 offseason, before spending $44 million on him via the franchise tag before letting him go and basically bringing in an older version of him. Both are adequate quarterbacks, but Cousins still has room for improvement and would he really have cost that much more than $94 million and $71 million guaranteed? At the very least, he wouldn’t have if they would have just signed him in 2016. The Redskins will look back on this with regret, especially if Cousins is able to lead his future team deep in the playoffs, while Alex Smith does his Alex Smith thing.

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