Practically Perfect: Why Alex Smith Should Return to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021

Storybook endings are rarely practical. In the case of Alex Smith's possible return to the Kansas City Chiefs, however, it makes perfect sense for everyone involved.
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The Washington Football Team is reportedly expected to part ways with quarterback Alex Smith this offseason, ending Smith's three-year run with Washington which included a life-threatening injury and a Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Smith, who turns 37 in May, will now become a free agent for the first time in his NFL career. He still wants to play, and there's a certain team that makes a ton of sense for Smith's next landing spot.

The Kansas City Chiefs.

Things have certainly changed since the last time Smith was in a Chiefs uniform. He's no longer the same quarterback who threw for more than 17,000 yards and scored 112 total touchdowns in five seasons with the team. He's now significantly older and, amazingly, still in the league after suffering the gruesome leg injury that held him out for the entire 2019 season. The fact that Smith can even walk, let alone play competitive football, is remarkable. 

The days in which Smith can be counted on to play in all 16 games and remain healthy for a postseason run are likely gone. He's a different player now. The Chiefs are also a different team, now led by Patrick Mahomes and coming off back-to-back AFC Championships and trips to the Super Bowl. They've won a championship, something Smith still has to check off his list of career accomplishments. Returning to Kansas City would provide that opportunity.

Smith is familiar with how the Chiefs operate, his public comments would indicate he values his time in KC very highly, and he and Andy Reid had one of the best working relationships in the NFL for years. The model was efficient and effective to a fault (not to remind anyone of endless postseason heartbreak). Should Smith accept being a backup, he'd be arguably the best one in the league. Although he has aged and changed, pieces like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce still remain. The fit is hand-in-glove, and Reid has always respected Smith's leadership and resolve. He spoke about Smith's successes in Washington after their playoff berth in January.

"I’m so happy for him, I can’t tell you," Reid said. "He’s a beast and so mentally strong. I’m so happy that he has a chance to do this with Washington. They need him and the stability that he’s brought. It’s great for the organization and great for the NFL. For him to battle through what he did is tremendous."

Another element worth considering: The Chiefs' backup quarterback has played in significant moments in each of the past two seasons. First, it was Matt Moore stepping in when Mahomes dislocated his kneecap in 2019. Last season, it was Chad Henne getting a Week 17 start and later securing a Divisional Round win against the Cleveland Browns after Mahomes entered concussion protocol. Things happen in football, and teams can never be too well-prepared.

If Smith were ever thrust into action during his potential second stint in Kansas City, he'd be an upgrade over Henne. Arrowhead Report's Sam Hays recently covered what the Chiefs should do to add depth to the quarterback room, and reuniting with an old friend does just that. Henne's contract runs through 2021, but the Chiefs could release him this offseason and free up $1.25 million of salary cap space, carrying just $375k of dead cap space from Henne's 2021 deal. Would Smith want to work under Mahomes, though?

The only person who knows that is Smith. With that said, he speaks glowingly of Mahomes and the two got along extremely well in 2017. Mahomes owes a great deal of credit to Smith for teaching him how to be a professional. Sitting behind Smith for a year was a benefit to Mahomes, even if Smith laughs off situations where he could take some credit for Mahomes' early growth.

Sure, the Chiefs have infinitely more pressing needs to satisfy before indulging in the luxury of bringing back their former franchise-leader. On the other hand, it would make for a great potential ending to a story that's been in the works for more than a decade-and-a-half. It's possible that Smith eyes a starting role, as Washington was a competitive football team with him under center. Whether that opportunity presents itself remains to be seen.

There are many reasons why a Smith reunion won't happen. There are also a ton of reasons why it makes perfect sense. For an organization centered around protecting Mahomes, fielding a backup capable of winning games whenever his name is called is a good move.

So often in the NFL, the storybook ending is the least-reasonable one. In this situation, however, a reunion for the Chiefs and Alex Smith is as practical as it is perfect. The Chiefs can improve their roster while Smith gets another chance to cap off his career with a championship.