Alex Smith is a shoo-in to be the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year after his incredible return to the field in 2020. The veteran QB helped Washington to a postseason bid and compiled a 5-1 starting record.
Smith missed Washington's postseason matchup due to a calf injury. After the season, the 36-year-old veteran said that he'd take time to consider if he'll continue his career.
Likewise, the Washington brass will have to sort out the quarterback position. Coach Ron Rivera was asked Wednesday if he expected Smith to be on the roster in 2021.
"We have to continue to go through our process. We've got to sit down to talk about it and discuss it," Rivera responded, per Sam Fortier of the Washington Post.
It's a lukewarm response given how heavy Rivera praised Smith throughout his comeback in 2020.
Smith's decision on his future is part of the equation. He's under contract in Washington, but the Football Team can save a large chunk of salary-cap space by moving on.
Rivera noted that adding a veteran QB to the mix makes the most sense given how the team finished the season but reiterated the club is "looking at all of our options" and wouldn't mortgage the future.
The reference to mortgaging the future could have been a nod toward the L.A. Rams shipping two first-round picks for Matthew Stafford. Washington was one of the teams reportedly interested in Stafford, but Rivera and new GM Martin Mayhew declined to speak about their interest level.
Mayhew was asked if there is a line between acquiring a franchise QB but not mortgaging the future.
"I don't know if there is that line. ...You want to be smart, but you also want to be aggressive in that process," he said. "Whenever it is, we're going to get the right guy."
Peering at potential free-agent options, Cam Newton is a name with obvious connections to Rivera. Washington declined to bring in the QB last year during free agency. Asked specifically about Newton, Rivera once again stuck to his general stance.
"We're exploring all of our options," he said, via Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer. "Nothing is off the table ... as we go through this, we're going to do what we believe is best for us."
The Washington QB room underwent turnover throughout the 2020 season. Former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins started the season, was benched, regained the job due to injury, then was cut. Kyle Allen started four games before suffering a season-ending injury. Smith took over and won five of Washington's seven victories. And when Smith couldn't play, Taylor Heinicke was yanked from college courses to start a postseason game.
Since being cut, Haskins signed a futures contract in Pittsburgh. Smith's future is up in the air. Allen is an exclusive rights free agent. And Heinicke is a restricted free agent. Steven Montez is also under contract for 2021 on a non-guaranteed deal.
With no obvious franchise QB, Rivera and Mayhew have to decide how they want to reshape their quarterback room in both free agency and the draft for the long and short term. First, the question is whether Smith will make another comeback.