The Washington Football Team released quarterback Dwayne Haskins on Monday, an unceremonious ending to two tumultuous years in the nation's capital. 

By cutting ties with Haskins, a 2019 draftee, the Burgundy and Gold have released a first-round passer quicker than any NFL team has over the past 20 years. The only passer to be moved faster was Josh Rosen, who was traded to Miami from Arizona after his rookie season. Even Johnny Manziel lasted longer in Cleveland than Haskins did in Washington.

Now, what many figured is official: Washington is back on the hunt for a franchise quarterback.

But, where Washington finds that franchise signal-caller is uncertain, with no clear or easy answer.

Almost every club that currently has a franchise quarterback, or has had one in the past, took that respective player in the NFL Draft. Patrick Mahomes was drafted by Kansas City; Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay; Lamar Jackson in Baltimore; Deshaun Watson in Houston; Russell Wilson in Seattle. The list goes on.

But if Washington wants to draft a quarterback with the hope of finding their franchise guy, it doesn't necessarily mean they have to use a first-round pick on one. Wilson was taken in the third round. Tom Brady went in the sixth. Dak Prescott was chosen in the fourth.

The reality is, though, first-round quarterbacks naturally, have a better chance of turning into franchise passers than mid-to-late round picks. That doesn't mean that every first-round QB will turn out to be a star. In fact, lately, only about half of recent first-round quarterbacks have panned out.


If Washington wins on Sunday, it wins the NFC East and hosts a playoff game. While that would be a remarkable accomplishment in Ron Rivera's first season, it would significantly hurt their draft position. A playoff berth would mean the best draft choice Washington could have in 2021 is 19th overall, and that's only if they're bounced in the first round.

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Picking 19th would significantly hurt Washington's quest to finding a quarterback. Why? Because the 2021 quarterback class is top-heavy with little depth.

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence can be penciled into the No. 1 pick right now, with Ohio State star Justin Fields likely to follow him at No. 2. Two other quarterbacks, North Dakota State's Trey Lance and BYU's Zach Wilson, are expected to be first-round picks, with both likely off the board by the time Washington would select at No. 19.

If all four of the so-called 'Tier 1 passers' are off the board when Washington chooses in the first round -- and if the team is set on drafting a quarterback with its first selection -- they will have to reach for one. Florida's Kyle Trask or Alabama's Mac Jones come to mind, but both of those signal-callers come with question marks for NFL scouts. There's a reason both are unlikely to hear their names called until Day 2 of the draft.

Taking Trask, Jones or another quarterback in the second or third rounds wouldn't be a bad move for Washington. That's a worthy investment. But using their first-round pick on one of them would be a pretty big reach, considering the number of talented players at other positions who would still be on the board, and the many holes Washington still has on its roster. It's clear now that's exactly what the team did with Haskins in 2019, taking a lesser talent too high. It's pretty clear that not even the coaching staff, then led by Jay Gruden, was on board with that pick. That mistake can't be replicated. 

Things get interesting if Washington loses to Philadelphia, as the team could pick as high as ninth should a couple of other things happen in Week 17. If picking in that range, there's a solid chance at least one of Fields, Lance or Wilson will still be available should they want to go that route.

Of course, the draft isn't the only way to find a starting quarterback. In each of the last three years, Washington has made an offseason acquisition via trade (Alex Smith in 2018, Case Keenum in 2019, Kyle Allen in 2020). Smith and Allen remain with the team. Smith is the unquestioned starter when healthy.

However, Smith is 36 years old. And although he's shown some promise this season, finding his eventual successor should be one of the team's biggest priorities this offseason. Washington could keep Smith and re-sign Allen for one season, but that is more of a temporary solution than a long-term one.


Two veteran quarterbacks that could be on the trade market this offseason are Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Atlanta's Matt Ryan. Both are proven veterans on bad teams and both organizations will have a new head coach and general manager in 2021. There's certainly a chance both teams blow it up this offseason to start a complete rebuild, meaning Stafford and Ryan could be looking for new teams in 2021.

Yet, if Washington wanted to acquire either of those quarterbacks, it would likely need to give up significant draft capital. Washington has plenty of young pieces but is not nearly close enough to contending for a Super Bowl that it can afford to mortgage the future to trade for one of those passers.

All of this goes before even mentioning the contract situation either veteran would come with. Stafford has nearly a $35 million cap hit next season, while Ryan has $40 million and $41 million cap hits over the next two seasons. Taking on either Stafford or Ryan's contracts would put a significant dent in Washington's cap space, especially if it keeps Smith on the roster in 2021.

Washington could always look to free agency to sign a quarterback, but franchise quarterbacks almost never hit the open market. By the slimmest of chances Prescott does, Washington should pounce, but other than the Dallas star, the free agent market is weak in 2021. Mitchell Trubisky, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston all are set to hit free agency, but none seem like viable franchise quarterbacks at this stage in their careers.

Considering all these factors, there's no clear path for Washington to find its next quarterback of the future. In fact, the answer to who that is might not be known for another year -- or longer.

At this point, it might take some luck.

But, as the team hopes to find a long-term solution at the sport's most prominent position that has eluded the franchise for almost 30 years, it might be better to be lucky than good.