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DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 15: Alex Smith #11 of the Washington Football Team throws a pass against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on November 15, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The quarterback market just got a tiny bit deeper. Alex Smith and the Washington Football Team are expected to part ways and make the veteran QB a free agent, as first reported by the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Smith went 5-1 in six starts for Washington in 2020, throwing only six touchdowns against eight interceptions. He did win a much-deserved Comeback Player of the Year award, since he had come back from a devastating leg injury that felt career-ending at the time.

But at age 36 and coming off a season in which he posted a 78.5 passer rating, it’s fair to wonder how much Smith has left in the proverbial tank. Four of his five wins came with Washington scoring 23 points or fewer. Even in his physical prime, Smith always lagged behind the best in arm strength and downfield accuracy.

Smith would, however, bring all the other good qualities that have sustained his career for well over a decade. He’s compiled a 99-67-1 career record mainly with his intelligence, preparation, situational awareness, and ball security. And he can run a bit, which has helped him over the recent evolution of the NFL. Whenever the former Niners and Chiefs QB has had winning talent around him, he’s played mostly winning football.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 26: Alex Smith #11 of the Washington Football Team looks to pass during the second quarter of a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Alex Smith of the Washington Football Team looks to pass during the second quarter of a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Patriots would almost certainly return to contention for a playoff spot if Bill Belichick can find a starting quarterback who can competently throw and protect the football, or competently run the offense in general. Regardless of age or experience, that guy would be an upgrade over what Cam Newton produced in 2020. Even in his current form, Smith would be an improvement over everyone that played under center for the Patriots.

So if he wants a chance to help Belichick right the ship, Smith could sign with the Patriots and immediately become the favorite to start in 2021. But that would still represent an incomplete situation. Unless something has drastically changed with Jarrett Stidham in specifically the past two months, the Pats would be best suited pairing Smith with a high draft pick at quarterback. Prominent mock drafters continue to peg the Patriots as a destination for a top QB prospect in the first round.

Whoever signs Smith will have to hope that his jump in interception rate last season was just a fluke. If the Patriots sign him, the arrow would point a little higher for the 2021 season. But they’d still have plenty of work left to do, even at quarterback.

Check out seven more possible QB options for the 2021 Patriots below.

MORE: 11 Weapons In Free Agency For 2021 Patriots

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.