Alex Smith's injury may sink 'Skins for years

Photo credit Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The gruesome injury suffered by Alex Smith may doom the Washington Redskins franchise for the next several seasons. 

This isn't to disparage Smith's play, as losing a quarterback of his skill set may not be seen as a disaster, but losing him to a devastating injury will significantly harm the franchise in the short-term because of the amount of money the team agreed to pay him this offseason. 

After acquiring Smith in exchange for defensive back Kendall Fuller and a 3rd round pick (78th overall in 2018), the Redskins signed the 34-year-old quarterback to a four-year, $94 million deal. But the real issue for Washington is the amount of money they guaranteed in the deal: $71 million.

The size of the contract's guaranteed money tied the fate of the Redskins to Smith through the end of the 2020 season as Washington will pay Smith $15 million in 2019 and $16 million in 2020, even if he doesn't play a down during the next season, which is a possibility due to the severity of the injury.

Alex Smith’s 15M ‘19 salary is guar’d for skill/inj/cap; his 16M ‘20 salary is currently only guar’d for inj. The ‘20 16M = truly guar’d if he’s on the roster the 5th day of ‘19 free agency. Meaning, if he can’t pass a physical in 4 months, his 2020 salary becomes truly guar’d.

— J.I. Halsell (@SalaryCap101) November 20, 2018

"This is a franchise crippling injury," Kevin Clark said on Sunday's The Ringer NFL Show.

The Redskins, who added Smith to bring stability to the quarterback position after years of contract drama with Kirk Cousins, will instead get total uncertainty at the position going forward.

"The opposite of stability is going to happen in Washington right now," Clark said "They're going to have a quarterback, who if that injury is as severe as we think, his status for next season is up in the air, then what do you do? Do you roll with Colt McCoy next summer? Do you draft a guy? Do you sign a guy, a patchwork guy? I don't even know where you begin."

The woes for Redskins fans over Smith's contract are compounded when factoring Washington's lack of cap space for the next few years. This leaves the 'Skins in a significantly weakened position to compete.

The Redskins have the sixth least amount of cap space for the 2019 season and the eighth least for the 2020 season, per Spotrac. They will have very limited maneuverability when it comes to adding offensive playmakers and a quarterback to replace Smith while he recovers.

"It's just a really bad situation," Ringer co-host Robert Mays said. "(The Redskins) were running in place with Alex Smith. Now, not having him for the rest of this year – and then maybe not at full strength next year – they're not even running in place. They're moving backwards with no plan to ever move forward in terms of the resources."

Even before Smith's injury, this contract seemed shortsighted by the Redskins. Now, it looks like another of owner Daniel Snyder's poisoned chalice deals.

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