The Washington Redskins are in a tough spot. They’re a competitive team with playoff aspirations, but going into 2019 they are unsure as to what to do at the quarterback position.
More specifically, star passer Alex Smith suffered a brutal leg injury during the 2018 NFL regular season and appears to be at risk of sitting out the entire 2019 campaign:
One storyline to follow for 2019: The #Redskins are planning as if they won’t have QB Alex Smith next season, sources say. They believe he’ll miss the entire season with his broken leg issues and are acting accordingly. If he’s ready, they will be pleasantly surprised.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 27, 2019
If that happens, a team that started 6-3 with him at the helm could quickly turn into a bottom feeder in a competitive NFC.
Head coach Jay Gruden could be entering his last year in D.C., too, especially if he can’t find a way to get his Redskins back into the playoff hunt.
With the future under center looking murky for the ‘Skins, sports bettors may want to refrain from wagering in their favor (their Super Bowl 54 odds currently sit at a paltry +6600 at Sportsbetting.ag).
Then again, if the Redskins bypass an Alex Smith return for next year and just do all they can to compete in the here and now, it’s possible bettors could take advantage of their current pricing and nab elite value.
Betting on the Redskins to win Super Bowl 54 is going to be a massive reach, either way. However, if Washington finds the right answer under center, they could still be a viable wager to win the NFC East or at least push for a playoff spot.
If that’s going to happen, the Redskins need a solid answer at quarterback. Here’s six they should consider for 2019:
Alex Smith Saves the Day
The top option is the preferred option and that’s that Alex Smith successfully returns from his horrible leg injury. It’s quite the tall order, though, seeing as Smith suffered the gruesome injury in November and may not be 100% until after the season starts.
This was a situation where Smith was probably already in a space where he was either considering retirement or facing a long road back. Add in some troubling post-surgery infections and the notion that Smith may never be the same, and it’s admittedly tough to fully buy into a Smith return – ever.
Still, Smith was quite good at times in his first season running Washington’s offense. The team got off to a hot 6-3 start under his direction and could again be in position to make a run at the division if he’s back in the saddle. It just isn’t something they can count on right now.
Nick Foles Stays in the NFC East
Could a rival come over from the Philadelphia Eagles and save the Redskins? It’s certainly possible. The Eagles are expected to move on from backup Nick Foles this offseason and that likely will not involve a franchise tag and trade.
Assuming Philly really does right by Foles and allows him to pursue the best possible job elsewhere, then a return to the NFC East can’t be ruled out. It’s also possible Foles will covet other opportunities or won’t want to face his former Eagles teammates, but it’s a solid position for him to consider.
Washington has a solid defense in place, they have a slew of weapons in the passing game and a returning Derrius Guice gives them a healthy rushing attack. Foles has the pocket presence and playoff experience to turn into a major steal, but the Redskins would probably have to hand him some fat cash and more than a one-year “prove it” deal.
With Smith soaking up long-term money still, landing Foles might demand the Redskins decide between the two. That could help them push for a playoff spot, but it’d be a big commitment and a huge denial, all in one.
Colin Kaepernick Finally Gets His Chance
Another less than popular option is that the presently blacklisted Colin Kaepernick finally makes his return to the gridiron.
Washington probably would have brought him in after Smith went down last year if they were serious about him, but a year can change things.
After all, Jay Gruden did suggest Kaepernick was part of the team’s internal discussions at first. The Redskins supposedly didn’t want to make that move due to timing and their system:
Jay Gruden said QB Colin Kaepernick was discussed but said there's "not a lot of time to get a brand new QB and a system installed and taught in a couple days. He's been talked about and discussed, but we'll probably go in a different direction."
— John Keim (@john_keim) December 4, 2018
Whether you buy that or not is up to you, but if the Redskins at all like Kaepernick’s talent and think he could be a fit, using an entire offseason to kick the tires wouldn’t be a terrible idea.
It’s true that Kaepernick is likely to be rusty after sitting out of football the past two seasons, but he still hypothetically has the talent to be an asset in Washington’s offense. An athletic dual threat passer with a solid arm, Kaepernick has also found success in the playoffs and even got the 49ers to the Super Bowl once.
Kaepernick could easily be done in every regard, but he also could be the best feel good story of 2019. It’s up to the Redskins to decide which is his reality.
If you’re feeling extra saucy, consider Johnny Manziel to the Redskins as a grabby notion. I don’t doubt it’d be interesting, but I’m trying to dream up scenarios where Washington’s new quarterback actually helps them win games.
Ryan Tannehill Bounces Back
Another quarterback a little more likely to get his second chance sooner is Tannehill. The former Texas A&M product has worn out his welcome in Miami and is likely to exit South Beach, but he still has plenty of talent and experience to fall back on.
It was never a question of ability with Tannehill, who largely had consistency issues and over the past couple of seasons simply couldn’t stay healthy. I’m not even sure he’s a total lock to exit Florida thanks to a changing of guard at head coach (Brian Flores comes over from New England), but the writing on the wall for a while suggests he’s a goner.
If so, the Redskins could swoop in and pick up a steal. Tannehill isn’t necessarily a lock to be the franchise savior, but he’s also not Brock Osweiler. In the right system and with the right talent around him, there’s a chance he can have sustained success.
Tannehill might even make sense on a one-year deal to just save Washington from total devastation in 2019 alone. It’s a win-win for the Redskins. Either Tannehill just gets them by until Smith can return or perhaps he’s the long-term answer.
Teddy Bridgewater Returns to Relevance
There are a few other veterans that could be looking for work this offseason. Most like Blake Bortles and Josh McCown don’t make great sense, but if the Saints allow Teddy Bridgewater to walk, he’ll be in high demand.
The former Vikings star hasn’t been able to show what he can do in some time, but by all accounts he still has the goods to be a franchise passer. Bridgewater was undeniably trending in the right direction before a crushing knee injury derailed his career in Minnesota, so it really could come down to the right team at the right time for him.
Bridgewater has already been realistic about his playing career, signing a short-term agreement with the Jets this past year before being traded to New Orleans. He’ll again get to decide his own fate, however, and Washington’s clear need of a viable passer may send him to D.C.
Draft Kyler Murray
Alex Smith is 35 and won’t be getting any younger. He also may never be the same again. Whoever the Redskins do bring in as a free agent would likely be a short-term fix, too.
One way or another, the Redskins should probably take this opportunity to address their long-term future at the position. With Denver apparently infatuated with Drew Lock, Washington’s (arguable) best bet right now figures to be Oklahoma star, Kyler Murray.
Murray is without a doubt one of the best quarterbacks in the 2019 NFL Draft, but some are worried about two things; his size and his commitment to football.
Both are warranted, but small quarterbacks have had high-level success in the NFL before and if Washington built their system around Murray, I think he’d excel.
The big question is whether or not he actually wants to play professional football or if he’s just leveraging his NFL-level talent for a better deal with the Oakland Athletics.
I can’t know for sure what he wants to do, but if he’s ready to play and is still on the board when the Redskins get ready to pick in round one, he has to be on their radar.
Here’s the skinny; the Redskins are good enough to push for the NFC East or at least sniff the playoffs. That’s been the case for pretty much Jay Gruden’s entire tenure and for some reason nobody cares to admit it.
In fact, it’s pretty arguable Gruden has always been held back by, well, the quarterback position. Kirk Cousins is known as a solid quarterback, but he also made a lot of boneheaded plays and wasn’t always consistent.
Alex Smith was a fine get via trade, and had he not been injured, it’s quite possible the Redskins win the NFC East or lock up a wild card spot in this year’s playoffs.
Because of that, the Redskins shouldn’t mail in the 2019 NFL season. They also shouldn’t hitch their wagon entirely to Smith or anyone they bring in.
Ultimately, the Redskins are in the unique position of competing right now and building for a better future. That should lead them to being open to a Smith return, bringing in a viable veteran and drafting their quarterback of the future.
Having the likes of Smith, Bridgewater/Foles/Tannehill and Murray on the roster next year would be a major improvement for the Redskins and put them in position to make a run at the playoffs. I just don’t know if I’d take that +6600 Super Bowl bet.