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2017 NFL preview: How much longer will Alex Smith retain the Chiefs starting QB job?

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We’re previewing the NFL heading into training camp, moving on to the 49ers four preseason opponents. Today, we look at the Kansas City Chiefs.

The San Francisco 49ers are wrapping up their offseason, with training camp set to get going on Thursday, July 27. With the help of SB Nation’s other NFL sites, we have been previewing training camp for the 49ers 13 regular season opponents. You can view all of them here.

Since we still have some time before the preseason gets going, I thought it would be fun to keep going and look at the other 19 NFL teams. The 49ers will play four of them in the preseason, while the remaining 15 will not appear on their schedule outside of a potential playoff appearance. But, it is helpful to continue getting a better handle on the NFL this season.

Today, we start with the 49ers first preseason opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs. Our friends at Arrowhead Pride put together a look at the various roster changes and storylines to track heading into camp.

There are plenty of questions following the unexpected firing of John Dorsey. And yet, as a 49ers fan, you know where I’m going to circle back. Alex Smith is the Chiefs starting quarterback, but suddenly his job security is in jeopardy. The Chiefs traded up in the first round from No. 27 to No. 10 to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He may not secure the starting job this year, but he is the guy they are building around for the future.

How much longer will Alex Smith be the Chiefs starting quarterback? In his four seasons with the Chiefs, they have made the playoffs three times and been over .500 all four seasons. They won a wild card round game following the 2015 regular season, but have lost their three other playoff games with Smith at the helm.

The 2013 loss falls on the defense, but even still, there is a ceiling with Smith. He is a capable quarterback, but to make serious noise, he needs more weapons around him on both sides of the ball than some other quarterbacks. The Chiefs cut Jeremy Maclin unexpectedly and did not do a whole lot to boost the offense around Smith. They did boost the defense after a poor 2016 against the run, but will they have enough weapons on offense for Smith to make do?

We will see plenty of Mahomes in the preseason opener, but once the regular season hits, it seems a matter of when not if he will supplant Smith. It might not be this year, but it seems like an inevitability.

Notable free agent additions: NT Bennie Logan

Notable free agent departures: NT Dontari Poe, WR Jeremy Maclin

Trades: None

Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies: Chiefs first round pick QB Patrick Mahomes is not expected to play (much) this season. Third round pick RB Kareem Hunt is a candidate to contribute early alongside Spencer Ware in the backfield.

Biggest offseason addition: The Chiefs biggest addition for the franchise is Mahomes but for players expected to contribute in 2017 it’s NT Bennie Logan who is replacing Dontari Poe in the middle. The Chiefs run defense struggled in 2016 and Logan is expected to help them improve there (and LB Derrick Johnson coming back doesn’t hurt either).

Biggest storyline heading into training camp: GM John Dorsey was fired a week after the Chiefs surprisingly cut Jeremy Maclin. The new GM will come in but the shock of it all has left a cloud over what had become one of the most stable franchises in the league.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: Can Alex Smith save his job? It’s not talked about much but what happens if Alex Smith takes the Chiefs to the AFC Championship game? It would be hard to cut the guy who just took you further in the playoffs than any Chiefs QB since Joe Montana. It may be small but there’s a chance Smith can stave off Mahomes even if just for another year with a great season.

Notable injuries heading into training camp: The return of Derrick Johnson from an Achilles injury is an important injury to watch, although all signs are positive heading into training camp. TE Travis Kelce also had offseason shoulder surgery.