NFL

Alex Smith landing spots: Ranking eight potential 2021 destinations ahead of expected Washington release

Washington Football Team will save nearly $15 million when it releases quarterback Alex Smith in the coming days. After the split, the reigning NFC East champions will officially begin their hunt for a new signal-caller, combing through every avenue — trade, free agency, the draft — to replace 2020’s Comeback Player of the Year. As for Smith, however? The 36-year-old veteran hasn’t 100% committed to returning, but after indicating he’s got plenty of gas left in the tank, it’s a safe bet he’ll explore new opportunities in 2021.

Where, exactly, might the former starter end up? Even in an offseason set for unprecedented QB movement, it’s not hard to identify some of Smith’s most logical suitors. Here are eight of them:

With Jacoby Brissett likely headed out the door, the Colts have just Jacob Eason behind Carson Wentz on the revamped QB depth chart. That spells trouble in the event Wentz, who has an injury history, goes down. And we know Indy is all in on winning sooner rather than later. The Colts also have plenty of money. Still, there are probably better alternatives at a similar price.

This is pretty contingent on the Texans dealing Deshaun Watson, in which case they’ll be looking for just about any QB they can find to stave off infuriated fans and/or win back the dejected ones. As a bonus, new coach David Culley worked with Smith in Kansas City.

Connections-wise, the Bears belong higher on the list. Coach Matt Nagy worked with Smith during their time with the Chiefs, Chicago is desperate for as many QBs as it can get, and worst-case scenario, incumbent backup Nick Foles has sat behind Smith before. Still, there’s no way the Bears should or would make him a candidate to start (or would they?), and they’d be better keeping Foles as the No. 2.

With Drew Brees expected to retire, the Saints will be hard-pressed to find enough salary cap flexibility to add a premier replacement. Smith should by no means be plan A, B, C or even D when it comes to filling Brees’ starting role, but if anyone can milk whatever is left of his arm, it’s probably Sean Payton and New Orleans’ quick-strike system. At worst, he’d be a solid backup to Jameis Winston.

Don’t try to convince us the Pats won’t keep calling the Niners about Jimmy Garoppolo. But if San Francisco really doesn’t budge, Smith makes a lot of sense in New England as a stopgap and/or mentor for a rookie. His arm isn’t all that special these days, but neither was Cam Newton’s in 2020. As a short-term option, it just can’t be ruled out.

Joe Burrow is the unquestioned man in Cincy, but the backup situation is much murkier, with top reserve Brandon Allen set to hit the market and only Ryan Finley in tow as a potential No. 3. Smith is exactly the kind of veteran you want behind a hotshot up-and-comer like Burrow — competent enough for an emergency start but primarily utilized as a teacher.

Ryan Fitzpatrick seems pretty likely to test free agency and get a better offer elsewhere, so the Dolphins will be on the lookout for a new, experienced No. 2 behind Tua Tagovailoa. Smith, as it turns out, is far more aligned to Tua than Fitz in terms of play style anyway. He’s not going to win you games gunslinging in relief, but his short-area expertise could serve Tagovailoa well.

The no-brainer. New Jags coach Urban Meyer was Smith’s head coach at Utah from 2003-2004, the QB’s two seasons as a starter before going No. 1 overall to the 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft. With consensus top QB prospect Trevor Lawrence likely bound for the starting job in Jacksonville, who better to implement Meyer’s system and mentor the rookie than Smith? Jacksonville has money to blow, too.



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