The Washington Football Team turned what was initially supposed to be a lost season into a successful campaign that resulted in a divisional crown and an appearance in the postseason. Although Washington’s season ultimately came to an end at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, all in all things went more than well in our nation’s capital in the 2020-21 season. The final result of the team’s journey was orders of magnitude better than anyone had a right to expect at the midway point of the season, when the Football Team was disorganized and lost.
However, with head coach Ron Rivera currently gearing up for his second year in Washington while employing a roster a young, talented players, there will no doubt be much higher expectations for the up-and-coming NFC East franchise come 2021-22. Because that will surely be the case, Washington’s front office will need to get creative in order to surround its rising talent with additional players that can help the franchise win now. With that in mind, the team’s current roster might begin to look a big different as the offseason continues to progress.
With the team’s quarterback situation evolving time and time again over the course of the last year or so, such a notion only got more confusing this past season. Not only that, but the same situation has yet to be truly resolved as more than a few options appear to be in the mix in Washington.
Despite the fact that veteran quarterback Alex Smith managed to make a miraculous and frankly unthinkable comeback from a gruesome leg injury, it was ultimately fellow Washington signal caller Taylor Heinicke that received a brand new contract with the franchise this offseason. Heinicke garnered a two-year deal worth $4.75 million alongside some pretty solid incentives. With Heinicke impressing when given the chance in 2020-21, enough to receive a new deal no less, it appears as though the job under center in Washington might be his to lose. At the very least, Heinicke appears to be the clear frontrunner to eventually secure the job.
Adding to the chaos in Washington, the NFC East franchise has recently been linked to current Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota, who looked healthy and versatile during a brief stint on the field in 2020-21. If Washington were to acquire Mariota, it would likely be in order to compete alongside Heinicke as the team looks to take yet another step in the right direction while remaining young and talented from top to bottom. Pairing a quarterback that can encounter long lasting success with a stout yet developing defense looks to be a rock solid recipe for Washington — considering how things went this past season.
With Heinicke renewing his stint with the franchise, Mariota entering the fold via the always churning rumor mill and former first round pick Dwayne Haskins officially out of the picture after being released, where does that leave the aforementioned Smith?
Entering his age 37 season in 2021-22, Smith is currently slated to earn a base salary of $18.75 million as a member of the Washington Football Team. Under contract for his age 38 season in 2022-23 as it stands today, the seasoned signal caller would earn a base salary of just under $21 million if he was still in Washington. Obviously, it would be absolutely insane to pay a back-up or even third-string quarterback this type of money while cutting ties with Smith might be Washington’s best option.
If Washington was to part ways with Smith prior to June 1st, 2021, the team would encounter a dead cap hit of $10.8 million to coincide with a salary cap savings of $13.6 million in 2021-22. On the other hand, if Washington were to wait until after June 1st, 2021, the organization would take a dead cap hit of $5.4 million in both 2021-22 and 2022-23 while saving $19 million in salary cap availability as a result of the 2021-22 campaign.
Granted he is an absolutely top-notch guy to have in the locker room, the rewards away from the field itself may not be enough to keep Smith around for much longer. For a team that is looking to remain young, talented and flexible in terms of salary cap availability, keeping a contract of this nature on the books just wouldn’t be an intelligent decision.
After all that the 36-year-old Smith has been through over the course of the last several years, he has definitely proven himself to be an elite leader, competitor and all-around football player. There are certainly a few teams that could utilize his services as either a starter or back-up if he isn’t ready to hang up his cleats, though Washington just simply isn’t one of them at the present moment.