DENVER -- The visual quickly entered my mind as the news broke.
I pictured a Broncos executive riding through the parking lot at Dove Valley, top down, channeling Ice Cube: "I can't believe, today was a good day."
Tuesday, as a matter of fact, was the best day of the Broncos' offseason thus far. The Washington Redskins acquired Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith for a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller, per multiple reports. In the final year of his deal, Smith will receive a four-year extension averaging $23.5 million annually with roughly $70 million guaranteed, per ESPN. The deal cannot become official until March 14, the first day of the league year.
The Smith trade is welcome news on two fronts. Smith no longer plays in the AFC West, and it clears a Broncos' pursuit of the Hope Diamond of the free agent class, Washington's Kirk Cousins. The Redskins have moved on, meaning there should be no complications with transition tags or trades.
Smith was on the Broncos' radar. Multiple teams expressed interest in acquiring Smith, and it would not have surprised me if the Broncos kicked the tires. Smith delivered a career season in 2017, throwing 26 touchdowns with five interceptions. The Pro Bowler connected on eight scores of more than 50 yards, the most since the NFL merger.
The objective Broncos fans -- those not blinded by their hatred for the Chiefs -- understand Smith would have represented an upgrade. Only the Browns' quarterbacks were worse than Denver's last season. However, it was also a longshot Kansas City would trade Smith to a rival. The Chiefs wanted $17 million in cap space, not a big contract in return like Aqib Talib's $11 million salary.
Smith offered an easy target for criticism over the years. I, too, was in the group calling him "Captain Checkdown." He was not this season. He played like a star. And remember this: he is 4-1 against the Broncos over the past three seasons, including a dramatic comeback in 2016 at Mile High Stadium that sent the Broncos into a spiral that continues to linger. Since the aforementioned loss, the Broncos are 7-15 over their last 22 games.
Smith exiting the AFC West, trust me, is a good thing. At least for next season.
I love second-year pro Patrick Mahomes' potential and arm strength. As said before, I have known about Mahomes for years with his godfather LaTroy Hawkins' talking him up. But it's hard for me to believe Mahomes will be better than Smith in 2018. If he duplicates Smith's 5-to-1 touchdown-interception ratio, he will be in the MVP conversation.
Smith's landing spot provides another layer of optimism. The Redskins, who have long been half-pregnant in their commitment to Cousins, are moving on. The path to pursue Cousins suddenly is clearer and smoother than E-470. There is no guarantee the Broncos land him, but they will be squarely in the mix along with likely suitors Arizona, Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville, the Jets and possibly even the Vikings depending how their three-headed quarterback monster takes shape this offseason.
Cousins brings leadership, durability and reliability. At 29, the tires are not bald. He has not missed a game over the past three seasons, posting 81 touchdowns with 36 interceptions, while averaging 4,392 yards. The price tag will be breathtaking -- Cousins figures to become the NFL's highest-paid player. And it's fair to wonder if the Broncos are the most attractive landing spot given the multiple roster needs. However, they have won this derby before, convincing Peyton Manning to lead their franchise. And John Elway recruiting a quarterback is never a bad thing.
Smith is gone from the West. Cousins is available.