Redskins QB Colt McCoy can play his way into free agency

When Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smithbroke his leg and saw his season end, it did more than install Colt McCoy as the starter. It also opened the door for McCoy to possibly play his way into free agency.

According to the terms of McCoy's one-year extension worth up to $7 million that he signed this past July, McCoy has the option of voiding the final year of his contract to become a free agent -- provided he hits parameters that he's now likely to reach.

In short, assuming McCoy starts the final six games beginning today against the Cowboys, he'll either be a much more highly paid backup or a free agent.

The Redskins will miss Smith, but they do think highly of McCoy. According to sources, had the trade of Smith not worked out, they were planning to go into the season with McCoy as the favorite to start over whoever they drafted, likely in the second or third round. Now, he's got his chance to prove his worth on the field.

Taking a look at the contract negotiated by agent Andrew Kessler, McCoy has options. If he starts the rest of the way, he'll achieve the requisite playing time to qualify for all incentives by playing 25% to 30%. That playing time gives him the chance to trigger the void of the final year of his deal. As it stands, he's slated to make $3.5 million next year with $2 million guaranteed.

If he does void the deal to try to become a free agent, the Redskins have the right to buyback that year by giving McCoy a raise. They can pay for him not to be a free agent by handing him anywhere from $750,000 to a max of $4 million for a total salary of $7.5 million.

For example, if he starts the rest of the season and the Redskins play in two playoff games, the buyback is $2 million. So he'd stay with the Skins if they so choose, but earn $5.5 million instead of $3.5 million -- with $4 million guaranteed.

This is not the first time we've seen such an option, as the goal is to allow a player to opt-out at his maximum value.

Chase Daniel, who starts today for the Bears, had one in his contract in Kansas City. After he went to the Eagles, agent Jeff Nalley negotiated another one for Daniel in Philly based on the previous year's stats of then-starter Sam Bradford. Daniel also has a void in Chicago but not based on stats. This time, it's simply a $5 million payment that would allow him to be free -- if he decides his market is there to cash in.

In Philadelphia now, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles has one, as well, on his most recent extension.

For McCoy and Washington, this could be interesting. They might, in fact, buyback the year. Or they could say two extra million is too much and he should be a free agent. If they decline, he's free. But what about the health of Smith?

If his rehab is slow, does Washington feel obligated to buyback at whatever level McCoy is?

So, McCoy has a choice to void, but Washington has a choice to buy back that year. What goes into that decision for both sides will play out over the course of the next six games, starting today against the Cowboys.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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