Add another name to the list of experienced quarterback options for the New England Patriots.
The Washington Football Team is expected to release veteran QB Alex Smith in the coming days, according to multiple reports Monday.
Smith was one of the most inspiring stories of the 2020 NFL season, returning to the field after recovering from a devastating 2018 leg injury that required 17 surgeries to repair. He began the season as the WFT’s third-string QB after missing the entire 2019 season but went on to appear in eight games with six starts.
Washington went 5-1 in games Smith started and 2-8 in games he didn’t, and Smith was an obvious pick for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Smith, who turns 37 in May, has expressed a desire to continue playing, and his mentorship experience — he tutored Patrick Mahomes during the future superstar’s rookie season in 2017 — could be valuable if the Patriots are looking to pair a veteran bridge QB with a high 2021 draft pick.
“I made a ton of gains through the year, and I still feel like I have more left to go gain,” Smith said in a recent interview with GQ. “I still feel like there’s stuff for me to go get out there, and get better. But this offseason, there’s a bunch I want to go do off the field. But football-wise, I got more left. I got more to get there, too. So I really do really wanna get in the meat of this offseason and see where I’m at and push it.”
Signing Smith would be a risky proposition, however.
Though Washington had success with Smith behind center in 2020, he was one of the NFL’s worst statistical quarterbacks. He threw more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (six) and ranked near the bottom of the league in yards per attempt (31st), passer rating (31st) and interception percentage (32nd). The only qualified QB with a worse QBR than Smith was the one he replaced, former WFT starter Dwayne Haskins.
Smith also ranked last in intended air yards per attempt and completed air yards per completion, according to Pro Football Reference — meaning he threw shorter passes than any other NFL quarterback — and missed three of Washington’s final four games with a calf injury, including its wild-card playoff loss to the eventual champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Cam Newton, much-maligned for his performance as a passer in 2020, ranked higher than Smith in each of the aforementioned metrics.
With Newton and Brian Hoyer set to hit free agency March 17, the Patriots currently have just two quarterbacks under contract for the 2021 season: Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala.
Along with Newton, the roster of impending free agent QBs includes Dak Prescott, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacoby Brissett, Mitchell Trubisky, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor and A.J. McCarron. Potential trade options for New England include Marcus Mariota, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold.
Smith will be free to sign with any team once his release becomes official.