WFT's Updated Depth Chart, Salary-Cap Space After Alex Smith's Reported Release

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2021

Washington Football Team's Alex Smith plays during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

The Washington Football Team reportedly released veteran quarterback Alex Smith on Friday, thus creating some major question marks regarding the position entering the 2021 season.

According to ESPN's John Keim, the move was likely financially motivated, as it saves Washington $14.9 million against the salary cap with $8.6 million in dead money.

Per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington, Smith's release means Washington now has $50 million in cap space, which could make it a big player in free agency.

Washington's quarterback depth chart is currently lacking proven options. Taylor Heinicke is at the top after impressing in Washington's playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. He is followed by Kyle Allen, who is set to became an exclusive rights free agent, and Steven Montez.

After missing part of 2018 and all of 2019 with a severe leg injury and infections that could have led to amputation, Smith returned last season. He began the year as Washington's third-string quarterback, but the 36-year-old was elevated into a starting role after Dwayne Haskins Jr. struggled and Allen suffered a season-ending injury.

Smith went on to start six games, going 5-1, and in eight total appearances, he completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions.

While Smith didn't put up big numbers, he helped Washington surprisingly win the NFC East with a 7-9 record, and the Utah product was also named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Smith did not start Washington's NFC Wild Card Round playoff game against Tampa because of concerns about his mobility, and Heinicke showed enough in his start that he earned a new contract.

Heinicke, who previously played under WFT head coach Ron Rivera with the Carolina Panthers, threw for 306 yards, one touchdown and one interception, and the Old Dominion product rushed for 46 yards and a score in a closer-than-expected 31-23 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champions.

For now, the 27-year-old is the favorite to be Washington's starting quarterback in 2021, although that could change depending on what Washington does in free agency or the draft.

Dak Prescott will be the biggest quarterback name on the free-agent market if he gets there, but the expectation is that the Dallas Cowboys will use the franchise tag on him to prevent that from happening if need be.

Other potential free-agent quarterbacks include Mitchell Trubisky, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton and Tyrod Taylor.

Of those options, Newton may make the most sense, as he played under Rivera for nine seasons in Carolina. He is coming off a poor season with the New England Patriots, though, which could cause Washington to think twice.

In the draft, Washington is set to pick 19th overall. There is seemingly a good chance that Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance will be off the board by then.

Washington could potentially get Alabama quarterback Mac Jones at that spot, or it could try to trade up in order to land one of the aforementioned prospects.