The six-year, $96 contract extension Bengals starting quarterback Andy Dalton signed Monday drew attention to Alex Smith and his contract situation with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The parties have been talking since the first of the year, but have not come to an agreement and it appears from the outside to be closer to a stalemate. There is no middle-tier pay structure for quarterbacks unless Smith is willing to take a modest amount of guaranteed money -- former 49ers' understudy Colin Kaepernicks received only $12.3 million guaranteed, for example -- and a pay-as-you-go deal that softens the salary-cap punishment for a team if the marriage doesn't work and the player is released.
Smith walked off the practice field to be told about Dalton's deal that averages $16 million a season, and could go as high as $19 million average based on escalators involving his playing time and the Bengals' postseason success. Notably, Dalton has no playoff success. He's 0-3 with one touchdown and six interceptions, thus the dangling carrot of $19 million incentives.
"To be honest, I had no idea they were even talking or that was happening," said Smith. "I found out walking off the field, just to give me a heads up because I'd probably get asked it. Other than that, I've got nothing for you."
Smith has talked about shutting down conversations on a new deal with the team until after the season. "I haven't thought about it a ton," Smith said. "I'm just focused on camp, coming out here, getting better . . . I've got enough on my plate, so we'll see."
General manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid separately have denied the deal, or negotiations, would be a distraction but as Smith watches his peers cash in, he might only be human if he's bugged by being the last free-agent-to-be standing.
Dalton admitted Monday that finalizing the contract was a "major relief."
Like Dalton, who has Alabama rookie AJ McCarron caddying in camp, Smith can look over his shoulder to see a rookie challenger in the future in Georgia's Aaron Murray, who is the third quarterback behind Chase Daniel.