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NFC East Notebook: Alex Smith’s departure, the Eagles’ No. 6 pick and ... Russell Wilson

Here are the headlines from around the division from this past week

NFL: Washington Football Team at San Francisco 49ers Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback carousel continued in the NFC East this past week but this time, it took on a more emotional note.

Ian Rapoport and Kim Jones reported earlier this week that the Washington Football Team and Alex Smith are expected to part ways “in the coming days.” That was on Monday so an official announcement from the team is probably due any day.

The move is not entirely surprising. Smith is 36 years old and his pocket mobility is limited due to the many surgeries his leg has sustained. On a financial level, the move will allow Washington to save $14.7 million versus the cap and acquire just $8.6 million in dead money, per Spotrac. Additionally, after the GQ interview that surfaced last week in which Smith revealed that his return “threw a wrench” in the team’s plans, it is understandable that the signal-caller does not have an interest in staying.

But these facts do not make Smith’s departure any less meaningful. Welcomed in Washington or not, the veteran left a mark on an organization that was undergoing a thorough rebuild both on and off the football field. Leading up to the 2020 season, the Football Team retired its 87-year-old nickname amidst wide-ranging sexual harassment claims from 40 former female employees. On the field, Washington was trying to rebound from a three-win 2019 season in which it finished as the second-worst team in football.

Despite these obstacles, Washington did come back. The Football Team finished with a 7-9 record, enough to clinch its first NFC East title since 2015. The Football Team has Alex Smith to thank for their turnaround. He posted a 5-1 record in the six games he started. His numbers were never explosive, but they were always consistent. And his presence in the pocket reflected the experience of someone who has been doing it for 14 seasons. Smith did not voice his displeasure at being the third-string quarterback at the start of the season. Instead, he waited. And then he silenced everyone by not only showing up, but by winning.

It’s a comeback that won’t soon be forgotten because it raised the standard of not only the NFC East, but the NFL as a whole. Regardless of whether the 36-year-old Smith choose retirement or to continue playing elsewhere, his impact will be felt for years to come.

Now, let’s check out the headlines from around the division this past week.

Dallas Cowboys

It’s difficult to talk about anything in Dallas besides the quarterback position and Dak Prescott. But let’s switch it up by discussing a related, but different, topic: Russell Wilson.

Last week, Adam Schefter reported the names of four teams Wilson would be willing to be traded to: the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders and Chicago Bears.

The situation with Wilson as a whole is unclear as he is reportedly unhappy with his current team, the Seattle Seahawks.

But throughout the various offseason rumors, Wilson has reportedly not formally requested a trade like the Deshaun Watson’s of the world.

But of the four teams Wilson requested, Dallas does make sense for both parties. First of all, there are few quarterbacks in the league better than Wilson, including Prescott. Also, we know that Dallas has been hesitant to sign Prescott to a long-term deal perhaps out of concern for any lingering issues regarding his injury. With Wilson, that is not a concern.

Here is what one of our fellow SB Nation colleagues had to say about the Cowboys and Wilson.

There’s also an out built into Wilson’s deal following the 2021 season. It gives Dallas a chance to try on the union for a year, then eat a cap hit and move in a different direction. If it works, then Dallas can keep him until 2023 without much issue. This also makes sense in terms of a potential trade, with Prescott being a significant return Seattle would be interested, and they could do a lot worse than losing Wilson and replacing him with a younger QB who is still excellent in his own right.

In many ways, Wilson and the Cowboys do make logical sense together. That does not mean the pairing will happen, but it’s something to consider as we head deeper into the offseason.

Philadelphia Eagles

The quarterback question also remains unanswered in Philadelphia. With the highest pick in the NFL draft of any team in the division at No. 6 overall, speculation over who the Eagles should select has naturally run rampant.

Bleeding Green Nation put together a helpful mock draft roundup that includes what 25 experts around the league are thinking.

The summary is below:

  • WR Ja’Marr Chase - 7
  • TE Kyle Pitts - 5
  • WR DeVonta Smith - 3
  • QB Justin Fields - 3
  • WR Jaylen Waddle - 2
  • QB Zach Wilson - 1
  • QB Trey Lance - 1
  • OT Penei Sewell - 1
  • OT Rashawn Slater - 1
  • OT Christian Darrisaw - 1
  • WR - 12
  • TE - 5
  • QB - 5
  • OT - 3

Adding an offensive weapon like Ja’Marr Chase or Kyle Pitts seems to overwhelmingly be the top priority among experts. Though the Eagles are of course in dire need of a quarterback, I think the emphasis on a receiver or tight end makes sense. Philly has needed an elite target on offense since last year’s draft. Alshon Jeffrey suffered an injury-ridden 2020 campaign and Jalen Reagor was not impressive in his rookie season, totaling just 396 yards and one touchdown. Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz is likely on his way out. Philly went rogue in last year’s NFL Draft and did not fill its receiver need. That has to change in 2021 if the Eagles want to be a legitimate competitor.

Washington Football Team

The biggest news in Washington this past week was Alex Smith’s likely dismissal, but additional news also broke concerning the team’s off-the-field culture.

Washington replaced its cheerleaders with a coed dance squad. The cheerleading program was more than 50 years old. The change is just the latest in a series of rebranding efforts by the Washington organization.

“As we set out to modernize the Washington Football gameday, it’s important that we develop a top-notch entertainment program that keeps our fanbase excited and connected to the game and the team,” team president Jason Wright said.

This news might seem small, but the Washington cheerleading program has long been steeped in controversy. The Washington Post has detailed allegations involving lewd outtakes videos from swimsuit calendar photo shoots in 2008 and 2010. The team has since reached a settlement with former cheerleaders sometime before the end of 2020, according to ESPN. For an organization that is still being investigated for the sexual harassment allegations of last offseason, this change in the cheerleading program (whether related or not) seems like a step in the right direction