Is Alex Smith an upgrade for the Jaguars?

Scott Halleran

How much of an upgrade would Alex Smith actually be for the Jaguars?

There is a possibility that the San Francisco 49ers will release or trade quarterback Alex Smith in the 2013 offseason, and many feel like the Jacksonville Jaguars should and will be interested. The big question with Smith however is, how much of an upgrade is he really over what the Jaguars have currently on their roster.

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Smith was having a nice season in 2013, finishing the year completing 70.2 percent of his passes and throwing for 13 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions and a rating of 104.1. Those numbers don't really tell the whole story, and as I've said for a while; Quarterback rating is a bad statistic, it lies to you.

Now, this isn't to say that Alex Smith is a bad player because he's not, but more so to ask how much of an upgrade will he really be for the Jaguars?

If you dig a little deeper in to some situation stats, provided by Pro Football Focus, there isn't a massive difference between both Gabbert and Smith.

Player Starts Drop Backs Yards In Air (w/o drops) Yards In Air (w drops) Deep Pass Attempts Comp % under pressure % Dropbacks under pressure
Blaine Gabbert 10 309 991 1,173 28 57.7 32.7
Alex Smith 10 256 949 1,004 18 51.2 28.1
Chad Henne 6 349 1,212 1,382 32 36.6 37.5

Many of the complaints about Gabbert were that he was scared to take shots down the football field and checked down far too often. Looking at the Signature States from PFF, it appears that Gabbert actually attempted more deep passes (20+ yards in the air) than Smith and near the equal amount of Henne in less drop backs. You can also see that Gabbert passed for more "yards in the air", which measures passing yards without yards after the catch.

Another big area where Gabbert surprisingly ranks higher is his completion percentage under pressure. Smith completed over 70 percent of his passes on the season, but when he was under pressure his completion percentage took a nosedive. Both Gabbert and Smith were under pressure close to the same amount of time as well, 32.7 percent compared to 28.1 percent of the time.

Not only that, but Smith hasn't exactly showed the ability to hold up through a season either, playing just two full seasons in his career dealing with shoulder injuries and a concussion. Plus you have to consider the cost of Alex Smith. You're either trading a mid-round pick for him and taking on his $8.5 million salary for the 2013 season, then seeing him hit free agency, or you're going to have to compete for his services in free agency. If he's not the "answer" but just a "bridge", how much are you willing to spend?

Again, this is not to say Alex Smith is bad or to prop up Blaine Gabbert in comparison, but mainly to question how much of an upgrade Alex Smith really is for the Jaguars. Smith right now is a guy you ask to not make mistakes for you offense and keep the chains moving.

By all indications the Jaguars are going to be bringing in competition at the quarterback position, but someone like Alex Smith might not really add much of anything that they don't already have, especially given what he may cost to acquire.

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