The Washington Football Team continues to search for an upgrade at quarterback, as Ron Rivera's club has reportedly been linked to almost every passer that could be available this offseason.
Yet, despite all the reported interest in quarterbacks elsewhere, ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith believes Washington already has its Week 1 starter on its roster.
"Y'all are not going to believe this. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's gonna be Taylor Heinicke," Smith said on First Take on Tuesday when asked who will be Washington's QB1 to begin the 2021 season.
As for why Smith is confident that Heinicke -- who was out of football and taking online classes at Old Dominion as recently as November -- will be Washington's Week 1 starter, Smith cited the quarterback's heroic performance against Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
In that game, a 31-23 loss to Tampa Bay, Heinicke finished with 306 passing yards, 46 rushing yards and two total touchdowns in a near upset over the eventual Super Bowl champions.
"If you watched this kid Taylor Heinicke perform in the postseason against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he was just trusted onto center stage, he didn't look too shabby. Not at all," Smith said.
What's even more remarkable about Heinicke's outing against Tampa Bay was that he didn't even know he'd be playing until the day before, when Rivera and his staff told him that starter Alex Smith would be unable to go.
"This is a dude. He's got some scrambling ability. He's shown some moxie, some courage," Stephen A. Smith said. "He goes out there and the moment didn't appear to be too big for him."
Last week, Washington signed Heinicke to a two-year contract extension worth up to $8.75 million with incentives, a move Smith doesn't think was "an accident."
Besides Heinicke, Alex Smith is the only other quarterback Washington currently has under contract next season. Kyle Allen is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning there's a solid chance he could be back in the mix, too.
While Heinicke has said he'd love for the trio to fill Washington's QB room next season, there's no guarantee Smith will be back in 2021, especially when considering his current cap hit ($24 million).
It's unlikely that Washington is done making quarterback changes this offseason. But, Stephen A. Smith is confident that Heinicke's playoff performance will at least earn him the opportunity to prove himself to Washington as its starter to begin next season.
"I think all of those things play a role where he's going to have an opportunity to start Opening Week 1," Smith said. "I really, really believe that he's going to have that shot."