Commanders

How Smith's past in Washington complicates mood about his future

Commanders

The Washington Football Team should probably move on from Alex Smith. 

It feels almost wrong to say that, and those who do nearly always precede the statement with a paragraph of praise before shifting into a more solemn tone to make the assertion. 

How can something that seems pretty obvious also be so difficult to point out?

Because Alex Smith is a truly unique player, one whose past is impossible to ignore even for the folks who coldly tend to proclaim that the "NFL is a business.” 

If you were to remove the name and the legitimately never-before-seen comeback that adds so much extra context to Washington's relationship with Smith, there'd really be no debate: A franchise that already re-signed Taylor Heinicke, could easily bring back Kyle Allen, is mentioned in connection to every available and maybe-available passer and could also draft someone in April would have no real reason to keep a 36-year-old with questionable durability and mobility around for the future.

Looking at it strictly from that angle, the whole matter appears rather basic. Do it. Do it yesterday. 

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The issue, of course, is that what Smith overcame in Washington and what he accomplished with Washington in 2020 greatly complicates Ron Rivera's decision about the veteran's standing with the organization.

 

Now, Rivera has displayed an ability to make a wide array of personnel choices during his year-plus tenure with the Burgundy and Gold. He traded Trent Williams to ignite his culture change, cut Adrian Peterson in training camp and said goodbye to Dwayne Haskins, someone whom Dan Snyder was very attached to.

None of those were easy.

Yet all of them look easy compared to the thought of releasing Alex Smith.

There is a potential compromise here, and that would amount to Smith restructuring his contract quite a bit in order to reduce his cost and stick on Washington's roster. He's due more than $20 million in 2021, and there's no way he can return at that number to act as a backup.

But still, would anyone be searching for that compromise if it weren't for the man at the center of this dilemma? Again, this is a team that's hoping its best years are right in front of them, as well as one that's obviously researching all paths to an upgrade at QB. This really shouldn't be much of a discussion. 

It is, though, since it all ties back to Smith, the incomprehensible courage he's shown in fighting back from his 2018 leg injury and infection, the unanimous respect he's earned in Washington's locker room and his emergence as a key figure in a rare division title. 

The vibe, when re-watching some of his late-season press conferences or the profile of his journey on 60 Minutes, is that No. 11 is interested in a 17th campaign as a pro. There's a new report out there speaking to that, too. 

Who can blame him, either? He fought for a second chance to compete in a sport he hopelessly loves and if he wants to continue doing so, he’s 10,000-percent earned it.

So, in all likelihood, this'll come down to Washington's call. It'll be on Rivera and the front office to conclude whether a reworked agreement is the ideal ending or if Smith is forced to resume his career elsewhere. 

The answer, realistically and honestly, lies in the latter outcome. It's OK to agree with that — just like it's OK to feel like you need to shower and do something to get karma back on your side for agreeing with that.

Smith, through his on-field contributions and approach and intelligence and outlook, has been integral in positioning Washington for a promising run. That’s simple to see. However, envisioning him being a part of that run sadly isn’t.