Chiefs are all-in with Patrick Mahomes in 2018 and beyond

Patrick Mahomes is the only QB under contract with the Chiefs and will be handed the starting job in 2018. Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

With free agency approaching (March 14), we're analyzing the quarterback position on the Kansas City Chiefs:

2018 cap hits of top returnees:

Patrick Mahomes II: $3,733,134.

Pending free agents: Tyler Bray.

Key stat: Alex Smith was the NFL’s top-rated passer, at 104.7 last season. That’s the first time the Chiefs have had the highest-rated passer since they joined the NFL in 1970. Smith threw for 4,042 yards, the most by a Chiefs QB since Trent Green in 2004. Smith’s 26 TD passes were the most by a Chiefs QB since Matt Cassel in 2010. The Chiefs have agreed to trade Smith to Washington at the start of the league year on March 14.

Money matters: Smith made about $58.5 million from the Chiefs in salary and bonuses over the past four years. Although Smith wasn’t one of the league’s dominant quarterbacks in that time, the Chiefs got a nice return on their investment. The Chiefs made the playoffs the past three seasons, winning the AFC West title in each of the past two. Where they failed is in the playoffs, in which Smith won just once in five games with the Chiefs.

Big picture: The Chiefs completely turned this position over when Andy Reid arrived as head coach in 2013. That’s when they traded for Smith, who started all but four games in his five seasons with the Chiefs. But it was obvious last season, when the Chiefs traded up in the first round to draft Mahomes, that Smith’s time in Kansas City would soon be coming to an end. The Chiefs are all-in on Mahomes, in 2018 and beyond. For the Chiefs to trade Smith after the best statistical season of his career is an illustration of what they think of Mahomes, the first quarterback drafted by Kansas City in the first round since 1983.

The game plan: Mahomes will take over from Smith as the starter. He started and played one game last season, leading the Chiefs to a win over the Denver Broncos. Once Smith is traded, Mahomes will be the only quarterback under contract with the Chiefs. That means the Chiefs need a backup to work behind Mahomes. Chase Daniel would make some sense. He was Smith’s backup for three seasons with the Chiefs, starting two games when Smith was out, before he left as a free agent in 2016. The Chiefs are committed to Mahomes for the long term. If he doesn’t work out as they hope, they have no fallback plan. They would be in the market for a new starting quarterback.