Alex Smith to Chiefs. What happens to Matt Cassel?
The Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to acquire Alex Smith from the San Francisco 49ers. Will former Chiefs QB Matt Cassel go to the Arizona Cardinals?
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He was acquired by recently fired general manager Scott Pioli, and has two years left on a $63 million, six-year deal. He will likely be cut once Smith is acquired.Skip to next paragraph
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Cassel was benched last season in favor of Brady Quinn, who also is a free agent after going 1-7 as the starter.
If Smith can bring the steady form that defined his last two years, the Chiefs might be able to establish a much-needed consistency under center. They also found themselves a team-first player who led the 49ers through workouts during the 2011 lockout.
Under the three-year contract he signed last March, Smith is guaranteed $8.5 million in base salary for the 2013 season.
Smith thrived under 49ers coach and former NFL quarterback Harbaugh in one-plus season as the starter. Then, just like that, it all changed after he sustained a concussion.
Last week at the NFL combine, Harbaugh praised Smith and reiterated just how strong San Francisco was with Colin Kaepernick as the starter and someone with Smith's credentials at backup.
Yet everyone knew it was likely the 49ers would do their best to improve Smith's situation considering all he did for the franchise for nearly the past decade.
"Alex is really playing the best football of his career the last two years," Harbaugh said. "We think we got the best quarterback situation in the National Football League, feel strongly about that. Again, that'll be a process that plays out. Alex Smith continuing to be a 49er or if a trade occurs in the next weeks or months. Those are the two possibilities, most likely possibilities."
Smith acknowledged when he lost the job to Kaepernick back in November that he had done nothing wrong but get hurt. Not only had he completed 26 of his previous 28 passes — 18 of 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and a 157.1 passer rating in a Monday Night Football win at Arizona on Oct. 29 — Smith had just earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after that victory in the desert.
He then sustained a concussion in the second quarter of a 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Nov. 11 — saying later he threw a touchdown pass with blurry vision. Smith sat out the next game as Kaepernick dazzled in his debut as an NFL starter, beating the Bears handily at home on Monday Night Football.
After that, Harbaugh vowed to stick with the "hot hand," as he regularly put it, while complicating matters by still referring to Smith as a starter.
Smith's most poignant response to the situation was, "I feel like the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion."
Kaepernick led the 49ers to the NFC championship and a 34-31 loss to Baltimore in the Super Bowl in his second season. Now the 49ers are looking for his backup.
The 28-year-old Smith struggled for most of his career in San Francisco, plagued as much by coaching and constant coordinator changes as by his own indecisiveness. But when Harbaugh became coach in January 2011, Smith blossomed under the former QB's guidance. He was among the league leaders in passer rating (104.1) with a 70.2 completion percentage when he got hurt last season.
Fox Sports first reported the deal Wednesday.
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this story.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.