Earlier this week, a report that Alex Smith would be released by the Washington Football Team got the NFL world talking about where Smith would land next.
The 36-year-old is coming off a 2020 season where he won AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors less than two years after suffering a devastating leg injury that required 17 surgeries and nearly led to the amputation of his leg.
Smith, the 2005 NFL draft top overall pick out of University of Utah, helped Washington reach the playoffs by completing 66.6% of his passes and compiling a 5-1 record in his starts after taking over for an injured Kyle Allen.
Now, though, his time appears over in Washington, as releasing him would save the team $14.7 million in the upcoming season, per overthecap.com.
Could his expected release set up a potential Utes reunion?
What about Jacksonville?
The Jacksonville Jaguars recently hired Urban Meyer as the team’s new head coach. Meyer, of course, was Smith’s coach during his time at the University of Utah, and the pair helped the Utes become the first BCS busters during their 12-0, 2004 season where Utah beat Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl and finished the year ranked No. 4.
Jacksonville is expected to take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the top overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, with Lawrence serving as the quarterback of the future of a franchise desperately seeking consistency. Meyer is known for his ability to elevate programs to title contenders.
“Who we pick at that quarterback spot, that’s going to be one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my lifetime,” Meyer said during his introductory press conference. “... I like to use the term elite. I see some elite quarterbacks out there right now.”
The Jaguars have two quarterbacks on their roster right now: Gardner Minshew, a second-year pro last year, and Jake Luton, who was a rookie in 2020. Mike Glennon, who was also with the team last year, will be an unrestricted free agent when the NFL’s new league year begins March 17. While Minshew has started 20 games over the past two years, Smith, a 16-year veteran, would bring many more years of experience and knowledge to the quarterback room.
Smith could serve as a mentor to younger quarterbacks
CBS Sports’ Cody Benjamin listed Jacksonville the most ideal landing spot for Smith, among eight top contenders that also included Miami, Cincinnati, New England, New Orleans, Chicago, Houston and Indianapolis.
“The no-brainer. New Jags coach Urban Meyer was Smith’s head coach at Utah from 2003-2004, the QB’s two seasons as a starter before going No. 1 overall to the 49ers in the 2005 NFL draft,” Benjamin wrote. “With consensus top QB prospect Trevor Lawrence likely bound for the starting job in Jacksonville, who better to implement Meyer’s system and mentor the rookie than Smith? Jacksonville has money to blow, too.”
The Jaguars will have the most cap space in the NFL this offseason, around $82 million according to overthecap.com, giving them flexibility to bring in someone like Smith.
Smith isn’t just familiar with Meyer in Jacksonville, though. The franchise’s general manager, Trent Baalke, was a part of the 49ers’ organization the entire time Smith was in San Francisco (2005-12) and was the team’s GM during Smith’s final two years there.
“If Alex Smith is released, the @Jaguars would be the perfect landing spot for the veteran. He has a previous relationship with the HC and GM, and he’s a great mentor to young QBs. This would be a best-case scenario for Smith and the team. #DUUUVAL #jaguars,” NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks tweeted.
If Alex Smith is released, the @Jaguars would be the perfect landing spot for the veteran. He has a previous relationship with the HC and GM, and he’s a great mentor to young QBs. This would be a best-case scenario for Smith and the team. #DUUUVAL #jaguars https://t.co/PpGZ0ne9ec— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) March 1, 2021
Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen, who was Smith’s offensive coordinator at Utah, also spoke highly of Smith’s ability to be a role model for younger quarterbacks — which could prove valuable in Jacksonville while also being “one of the smartest people I’ve ever met and an unbelievable competitor.”
“If you really dig in, if you get to know him, what a role model he is,” Mullen said, per Jaguar Report. “From being a student-athlete, the success he had from being like a one or a zero star, from whatever he is to being the No. 1 pick in the draft. Graduating college in two years. And then goes on and helps organizations, build organizations up to championship levels. Just an unbelievable leader, unbelievable teammate.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find many guys that don’t say he’s one of the greatest teammates they’ve ever had on the field.”
Smith already has a mentor success story
Smith showed just what kind of impact he can make as a mentor during his time in Kansas City. During the 2017 season, Smith’s fifth and final one as the Chiefs’ starting quarterback, he also filled a leadership role with then-rookie Patrick Mahomes, one of the game’s top young quarterbacks. Following that season, Smith was traded to Washington, while Mahomes became one of the game’s top young signal-callers and helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV in 2020.
“He texted me right after the game, saying he enjoyed it just as much as we did,” Mahomes told ESPN after that Super Bowl win. “He wasn’t there, but he was part of it — I think that’s the biggest thing. He built the culture that I came into. He was the guy that led the team to all these successful seasons and built that winning culture.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid credited Smith for being so humble in taking Mahomes under his wing.
“Alex kind of let him tag along with him on the field and off the field, showed him how to be a pro — how you study, diet, your workout plan, how you work your family into the National Football League and be a great football player,” Reid said in the lead-up to Super Bowl LIV. “I joke about it, but it’s true: Patrick couldn’t pay Alex enough for what he gave him with that experience.”