The Washington Football Team made it official on Friday and released quarterback Alex Smith, the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, after his return from a gruesome leg injury that nearly ended his career.
Smith's time with the team appeared to be coming to an end after a report Monday that the team would be parting ways with him. After an injury to Kyle Allen and poor play by Dwayne Haskins, Smith took the reins and led the team to a 5-1 record down the stretch. It was enough to win the NFC East at 7-9 overall and earn a playoff berth.
What it means for Smith
Smith, who turns 37 in May, wants to keep playing and for the first time in a career spanning 16 years he is a free agent. His veteran leadership and solid play will be assets.
His relationship with Washington appeared to be rocky after he told GQ recently he didn't feel supported by the team during his recovery and eventual return. Smith broke his right fibula and tibia in November 2018 in an injury so bad he had to decide if he wanted to have his leg amputated. He underwent 17 surgeries to fight infection and the road back to the field was long and arduous.
He made it back, though, despite concerns he wouldn't. He told GQ his comeback was a "wrench" in the team's plans, likely prompted by a new regime.
"So there was a very small group of people that actually thought that I could do this. I think the rest of the world either doubted me, or they patronized me. 'Yeah, that's really nice that you're trying.' When I decided to come back, I definitely threw a wrench in the team's plan. 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. Mind you, it was a whole new regime, they came in, I'm like the leftovers and I'm hurt and I'm this liability. Heck no, they didn't want me there. At that point, as you can imagine, everything I'd been through, I couldn't have cared less about all that. [laughs] Whether you like it or not, I'm giving this a go at this point."
Ron Rivera took over ahead of the 2020 season and will turn to a different leader on offense.
Washington looks to upgrade at quarterback
The release will save Washington $14.7 million against the cap with $8.6 million in dead money, per ESPN. Keeping Smith would have cost $24.4 million against the cap when the new NFL calendar kicks in.
Quarterback was an issue for the team throughout the past season after Haskins, Washington's planned franchise QB from the 2019 draft, struggled. The team released him in December following a myriad of late-season issues.
Washington signed Taylor Heinicke to a two-year deal in February. The 27-year-old journeyman quarterback had a breakout performance in the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It places him as the current frontrunner in a race that's loaded with possibility.
Allen is expected to return and Washington also has QB Steven Montez on its roster.
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