How Taylor Heinicke Affects Washington Football Team Quarterback Room

Taylor Heinicke Quarterback

The Washington Football Team lost on Saturday, but quarterback Taylor Heinicke had one of the best games in recent team history. Starting in place of an injured Alex Smith, Heinicke went blow-for-blow with Tom Brady and almost pulled off an incredible upset. The quarterback looked like a legitimate star under the brightest of lights, but what does his future hold in Washington?

Washington Football Team: How Taylor Heinicke Affects Quarterback Situation

Was It As Good As It Looked?

Overall, Heinicke finished the night completing 26 of his 44 attempts for 306 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and two sacks. Additionally, Heinicke added another 46 yards and a touchdown on six rushing attempts. These numbers obviously look great on paper, but traditional box score stats can be deceiving. Pro Football Focus player grading and advanced metrics tend to be more predictive of future performance, so let’s see what they have to say.

According to ESPN, Heinicke finished with a 63.2 QBR. Note that QBR is not passer rating, as QBR is based on expected points and is on a 0-100 scale. Basically, this is saying that, all else being equal, Heinicke’s performance would yield a win roughly 65% of the time. This is obviously a good thing, and PFF backs up this assessment. According to their play-by-play grading, Heinicke was the NFL’s best quarterback on Wild Card Weekend, finishing with an elite 92.0 grade. For reference, Brady was right behind him with a 90.8 grade.

Heinicke’s performance passed the eye test, and the advanced metrics confirm that the Old Dominion product had a game to remember. If he could play like this for a full season, then the Washington Football Team wouldn’t have to worry about the quarterback position for quite some time. However, banking on this type of play continuing is a tough bet.

Small Sample Noise

As great as this one game was, it was only one game. Weird things happen in small samples, especially in a league as volatile as the NFL. Who could ever forget Matt Flynn absolutely destroying the Detroit Lions in 2011, earning a massive payday, and ultimately losing out on starting jobs to both Russell Wilson and Terrelle Pryor?

Chances are, Heinicke is more likely to be Matt Flynn than Tom Brady. The quarterback only has one other NFL start to his name, and injury took him out of that contest after just 25 snaps. Throughout the rest of his career, Heinicke bounced around practice squads and couldn’t even earn a starting job in the XFL. Professional football coaches are smart people, and it’s highly unlikely that this many people watched Heinicke in practice for this long and didn’t notice he had the potential to be something special.

Heinicke proved he belongs in the NFL, but he probably won’t be able to match Saturday’s performance on a consistent basis. However, he should have the right to try, and the Washington Football Team desperately need a quarterback. There should be interest on both sides, so let’s look at how Washington could keep Heinicke around in 2021.

How Taylor Heinicke Affects the Quarterback Room

According to Spotrac, Taylor Heinicke is currently on a one-year, $910,000 contract with a $132,354 cap hit. This is absolutely nothing by NFL standards, and Heinicke will earn a bigger payday as he hits free agency.

The Washington Football Team is currently projected to have approximately $40.5 million in cap space, which means they should have plenty of money to spend. Additionally, they currently have the 19th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, which means that the elite quarterback prospects will probably be gone before they could ever get to Washington.

Chances are, it won’t take too much money to bring Heinicke back for another go. While he’ll certainly earn more than league minimum, he won’t break the bank. In all likelihood, an incentive-laden one-year, $5 million contract would get the job done.

Alex Smith still has two more years on his contract, and he’s proven to be a capable bridge quarterback if Heinicke isn’t up for the job. Alternatively, the Football Team could save $13.6 million in cap space by releasing Smith. Using this money, Washington could sign someone like Cam Newton to compete with Heinicke for the starting job.

With quarterback addressed and money to spend, the Football Team should allocate the rest of their resources to upgrading the supporting cast. Terry McLaurin is a fantastic player, but the rest of the offensive weapons leave something to be desired. Signing someone like Allen Robinson or Will Fuller would open up the offense and give Heinicke a chance to truly prove himself. If he’s up for the task, fantastic! If not, then either Smith, Newton, or somebody similar should be good enough to have this team competing in a weak NFC East.

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