Alex Smith, the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, will be released by the Washington Football Team in the coming days, ending a remarkable comeback that saw him go from almost losing his leg to returning to the field and becoming the team’s starting QB again. But the 36-year-old will be needing to find a new team this offseason, and there should be enough suitors to fulfill his wish of continuing to play.
In a recent interview with GQ, Alex Smith went on record with how unwanted he felt in Washington under the new leadership, going as far to say this:
“They didn’t see it, didn’t want me there, didn’t want me to be a part of it, didn’t want me to be on the team, the roster, didn’t want to give me a chance.”
That telling statement essentially showcases the kind of sentiments that Washington holds towards Alex Smith, even under new head coach Ron Rivera and management. Seen as a holdover from the previous regime, Smith’s tenure in D.C. has been one filled with highs and lows, but he will be needing to find a new team this offseason.
His health certainly is at the front of all negotiations moving forward, but he produced game-manager numbers across his eight games (six starts). While not blowing any opponents away, his awareness in the pocket behind a solid offensive line helped keep his eyes downfield, something that will be imperative to keeping him upright and efficient moving forward.
No guarantees of starting are there for Smith at this point, and with as much adversity as he has faced in his playing career, that factor will not phase him. This offseason will be very telling for how teams value veteran QBs, especially those with an expedited timeline for the remainder of their playing careers, and Smith could be used as a guinea pig on the open market.
There has been a bunch of quarterback turnover already this offseason, and even after this year’s draft with the likes of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and others, Smith will have a role moving forward, even if it is not as safe as he may like.
Here are three potential landing spots for the former first overall pick out of Utah.
Alex Smith targets: San Francisco 49ers
Is a homecoming likely for Smith and the San Francisco 49ers? No.
But it presents a great place for him to wrap up his NFL career at, going back to where everything started.
The QB position under head coach Kyle Shanahan is currently in a state of flux, as big-money Jimmy Garoppolo has been dealing with copious amounts of injuries and inconsistent play, elements that just will not play out in the bay.
While both Garoppolo and Alex Smith showcase similar play styles in being game manager, Shanahan knows exactly what he has with Garoppolo and the team’s lack of commitment to him pretty much makes it obvious how much longer he will be on the team.
With bringing in Alex Smith, he could help pair up with a rookie option (Mac Jones / Kellen Mond / Jamie Newman / Kyle Trask) and bridge that gap for one or two seasons before hanging up the cleats for good.
Alex Smith has nothing left to prove in this league, as his comeback from his gruesome leg injury has proven way more than any type of on-field performance and stats can. Getting welcomed back home for the back-end of his career (dependent on Garoppolo being shipped out) would tie a nice bow on his career that started back in 2005.
Mired in what seems to be a constant trend of mid-tier QB options for the past 10-20 years, the Chicago Bears are going to start their search yet again, after their Mitchell Trubisky left a bad taste in their mouth.
Alex Smith is no world-beater and certainly would not push this team to the top of their own division, but his familiarity with Chicago’s head coach Matt Nagy would help him maximize his final years in the league, all the while providing Nagy with a proven entity that could even give him a bit of a longer leash as he looks to be on a hot seat entering the season.
The offense that the Bears run differs from what Smith was a part of with Nagy as his QB coach, focusing more on bootleg action and QB agility than what Alex Smith is used to, a big-time change for a player that will hit age 37 before the NFL season begins.
That kind of ask of a long-established player is not an easy one, even with his familiarity with Nagy – however, that familiarity alone would be enough to give Alex Smith a sense of comfort in Chicago, and he would be tied to Nagy, something that could help give him a clearer timeline for the remainder of his career.
The harsh environments of both Solider and Lambeau Fields would not be helpful for Smith, but his skill set and abilities would be good fits alongside Nagy – plus, if Nagy was fully in on making Alex Smith his starting QB moving forward, that could create the need to improve the play style, something that can only help the struggling offense.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has repeatedly failed to address life after Tom Brady, and the failed Cam Newton experience is just another notch on that list – but with expectations for this team still being fully determined, bringing in a proven veteran like Alex Smith to help run a Josh McDaniels offense sounds a bit more fruitful than what other options are out there.
Wherever he goes, serving the role of a mentor is something that Alex Smith will need to hold, whether he wants to or not. For as much as this game has taken from him, his ability to give back to players after him through on-field teachings is a very valuable lesson and something that Belichick may look for in a potential free-agent addition.
Alex Smith profiles to be no more than a game-managing QB option with middling agility, but his determination and grit make him stand out from the pack for all of the right reasons. While the Patriots search for their future QB, Smith would be an excellent bridge to that, even if that future ends up being Jarrett Stidham, who happens to already be on the team.
Given a chance to succeed in Foxborough, Smith could take an unproven team and do some fun things with it, giving him the keys to an offense that is devoid of proven talent but filled with formable talent.
Quarterbacks of Smith’s tenure, experience, and skill level do not just grow on trees, and while his spot in the NFL may be growing closer and closer to its end, he still has enough left in the tank to offer to a team. Whether it be in an open competition in training camp or as a second-string option, Alex Smith still deserves a chance to make it in this league – he has not given up on the league yet, and it looks like the sport has not yet either.