The Washington football team turned what was initially seen as a lost season into a successful campaign that ended with a divisional victory and an appearance at the end of the season. Although Washington’s season ultimately ended at the hands of future Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2020-21 season in our nation’s capital was more than good. The end result of the team’s journey was an order of magnitude greater than one would have expected in the midst of a season where the football team was disorganized and lost.
With head coach Ron Rivera currently gearing up for his second year in Washington, while adding young and talented players to his roster, there is no doubt that 2021-22 will be a new phase for the NFC East franchise. As will undoubtedly be the case, Washington’s front office will have to be creative in surrounding its growing talent with additional players who can help the franchise win now. With this in mind, the current composition of the team could be very different in the off-season.
With the team’s quarterback situation constantly changing over the past year, such a performance last season was only confusing. Not only that, but the same situation really needs to be addressed, as there seem to be more than a few options in Washington.
Although quarterback Alex Smith has miraculously recovered from a horrific leg injury, it was his compatriot Taylor Heinicke who landed a new contract with the franchise this season. Heinicke was given a two-year contract worth $4.75 million and given pretty strong incentives. After Heinicke impressively got a chance for the 2020-21 season, enough to get a new contract, it looks like the position in Washington could be a lost cause for him. At the very least, Heinicke seems to be the undisputed leader in securing jobs at the end.
To add to the chaos in Washington, the NFC East franchise recently linked to current Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota, who proved healthy and versatile during a brief stint in 2020-21. If Washington were to acquire Mariota, it would likely be to compete with Heinicke, as the team hopes to take another step in the right direction while remaining young and talented from top to bottom. The combination of a quarterback capable of long-term success with a stable but developing defense seems like a solid recipe for Washington – given how things went last season.
With Heinicke resuming his work with the franchise, Mariota making his appearance with more and more rumors, and former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins officially out after his release, what about the aforementioned Smith?
Smith, who enters the 2021-22 season at the age of 37, currently earns a base salary of $18.75 million as a member of the Washington football team. According to his current contract for the 2022-23 season, the 38-year-old seninger veteran would receive a base salary of just under $21 million if he were still in Washington. Of course, it would be absolutely insane to pay for a replacement or even a third-row quarterback with that kind of money, while a breakaway from Smith might be the best option for Washington.
If Washington decides to move on for the first one. In June 2021, in order to break free from Smith, the team would have to face a $10.8 million buyout, which would save $13.6 million in 2021-22. However, if Washington is in business from the start. In June 2021, the organization would have a salary cap of $5.4 million for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 campaigns, while saving $19 million.
Assuming he’s an absolutely outstanding guy in the locker room, the off-field rewards alone might not be enough to keep Smith around much longer. For a team that wants to remain young, talented and flexible in terms of salary cap, it just wouldn’t make sense to maintain a contract of this nature.
After all that Smith, 36, has been through in recent years, he has definitely established himself as a leader, a competitor and an absolute footballer. Of course, there are several teams that could use him as a starter or a backup if he’s not ready to hang up his boots on the willows, although Washington isn’t one of them at the moment.