Former K.C. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has overcome numerous hurdles in his professional football career—from the expectations of being a former No. 1 pick to being traded twice to a gruesome leg injury that should have ended his career. Perhaps all of that places his latest obstacle—hoping for another chance to start in the NFL as a free agent—in proper perspective.
Earlier this week, the Washington Football Team decided to part ways with Smith after meeting with the veteran quarterback and discussing their plans going forward. After the meeting, head coach Ron Rivera released a statement to the media:
Smith was an excellent story on the surface last season for Washington. He won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award for his ability to not only return to the field after a career-threatening spiral fracture of his leg but to also ascend the depth chart and start for the team down the stretch as they made the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Alex Smith is back on the free agent market.
Unfortunately for Smith, the team was never fully behind his comeback attempt and likely hoped he would take an injury settlement. The regime that traded for and installed Smith as the starting quarterback had been replaced by Rivera and his staff, which made for an awkward pairing. In a recent interview with GQ, Smith detailed the tension surrounding his comeback even as it looked inspirational from the outside.
Smith is now looking for another chance to compete for a starting role as a free agent this spring. It will be interesting to see what chances come his way with the quarterback market in so much flux in general. Five quarterbacks are being touted as potential first-round picks, and even elite starters like Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson are possibly in play in mega-trades. Carson Wentz, Matt Stafford, and Jared Goff have already been dealt this offseason as well.
When the music stops, will Smith have a chair in which to sit? Certainly any team would benefit from his leadership, experience, and intelligence on the roster—and that includes a return to the K.C. Chiefs—but it’s hard to picture Smith settling for such a role, at least until he’s fully explored the market. He’s too competitive to not try to show what he can do once again.
For that reason, Smith might be wise to wait until the preseason if chances seem slow to reveal themselves for now. Injuries are bound to happen. Some teams will try and fail to acquire someone in the draft or free agency. Opportunities come and go on a regular basis in the NFL, and Smith’s patience could pay off that way.
If nothing else, this is just another hurdle in a long and impressive career marked by them—or rather, marked by Smith’s resilience and character in the face of them all.