The new league year arrived for the NFL on Wednesday, and even with bloated rosters available to teams until training camp, the Redskins only list one quarterback on their active roster.
That would be Dwayne Haskins, the 15th overall pick last year that showed some flashes of promise late in the 2019 season. Alex Smith is still on the team's payroll, but after a catastrophic leg injury in 2018, he hasn't been active for more than a year. Currently, he's on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and it's unclear if or when that's changing.
With Smith's status so unknown, and Haskins having just seven starts under his belt, Redskins head coach Ron Rivera has openly talked about competition at the quarterback position.
"Quarterback is a position you've got to have competition in," Rivera said during the NFL Scouting Combine last month. "Very competitive competition."
Most of the conversation around QB competition has included Tua Tagavailoa, the Alabama star that the Redskins could select with the second overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
More recently, that conversation has turned to Cam Newton, the Panthers star that is now on the trading block. Rivera and Newton worked together for years in Carolina, got to a Super Bowl, and speak of each other with deep respect and fondness. Don't rule that out, at least not yet, particularly if the Panthers struggle to find a trade partner and Washington can swoop in for a low cost.
Now another QB name has emerged from Monday Night Football analyst Booger McFarland.
Jameis will be in play in Pittsburgh , Jacksonville, Cincinnati , and Washington as a back up— Booger (@ESPNBooger) March 18, 2020
The first overall pick in 2015, Winston had a volatile five-year run in Tampa. At times, he was brilliant, throwing for more than 5,000 yards and 33 touchdowns last year. At times, however, he was awful, including throwing 30 interceptions last year. He's benched in favor of journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and also had weird sideline displays. In 2018, Winston served a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
In short, the Jameis Winston experience has been a roller coaster in Tampa, and Bucs head coach Bruce Arians seemed very ready to move on by season's end. Asked if his Tampa team could excel without Winston at quarterback, Arians didn't hold back: "If we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one, too."
Winston is now a free agent, available to all 32 NFL clubs, and it doesn't seem like much of a market has emerged. There aren't many starting jobs still available, New England and maybe the Chargers, so it makes sense that Winston might need to look at backup opportunities.
Based on the success Ryan Tannehill had in Tennessee last season, where he signed to back-up Marcus Mariota before taking over the top job about halfway through the year, maybe Winston could view the Redskins as a similar opportunity. Tannehill just signed a lucrative new contract with the Titans based on his late-season success.
Have we mentioned Rivera wants competition?
Because the Redskins still owe Alex Smith more than $20 million whether he plays or not, the Redskins are spending a lot at quarterback even with Haskins on a rookie deal. Signing a big name QB like Newton would probably be untenable from a financial perspective. But what would Winston cost? Last year, Tannehill made $7 million as a backup, and a similar deal could be tenable in Washington.
This year, Mariota signed with the Raiders to back-up David Carr. His grip on the starting job is not ironclad, at all, and Mariota could get a chance to take over if Carr struggles.
Could a similar scenario unfold in Washington, with Winston backing up Haskins, but also waiting in the wings? It worked for the Titans, and Booger says it could happen with the Redskins too.
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