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AP source: Washington tells Alex Smith he's being released

Washington has informed Alex Smith the team is releasing the veteran quarterback, according to a person with direct knowledge of the decision.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Friday because Smith’s release was not yet official.

The move was expected but provides far from a storybook ending to the veteran quarterback's motion picture-quality tenure with the team.

Smith made a triumphant return to NFL action last season, two years after breaking two bones in his right leg and requiring 17 surgeries to repair it. His battle against a life-threatening infection and long rehab process to get back on the field became a documentary and an inspirational tale when he was able to play again.

Those warm and fuzzy feelings evaporated not long after Smith led Washington to its first playoff berth in five years. Comments by coach Ron Rivera and new executives Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney and the financial ramifications of releasing Smith now made it clear he wasn't in the plans for next season as the team looks to find another franchise quarterback.

Smith has indicated he plans to continue playing at age 37. He recently told GQ in his most pointed comments yet that Washington didn't want him to come back from his injury — another indication he knew his future would be elsewhere.

Just three years ago, Smith was Washington's present and future at the position. The previous regime, led by president Bruce Allen, agreed to trade a third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller to Kansas City for Smith and sign him to a $94 million, four-year extension with $71 million guaranteed in February 2018.

Smith had Washington off to a 6-3 start that season before breaking his right fibula and tibia in a home game Nov. 18 against Houston. He was hospitalized for almost a month and had a stabilizer on his leg after he was released.

The journey back was the subject of an ESPN documentary. Smith started the 2020 training camp on the physically unable to perform list and was third on the depth chart behind Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen.

It took Rivera benching and demoting Haskins and Allen getting injured for Smith to get on the field. He made his first appearance since the injury Oct. 11 against the Rams and struggled in poor weather conditions before going back to a backup role.

When Allen injured his right ankle, Smith started at Detroit on Nov. 15 and threw for 390 yards in a 30-27 loss. He won his next four starts before injuring the calf muscle in the same right leg he broke two years earlier and was just healthy enough to lead Washington to a victory in the regular-season finale at Philadelphia to win the NFC East and make the playoffs.

With Smith unable to play against Tampa Bay in the wild-card round, Taylor Heinicke impressed but fell short in a loss to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Buccaneers. While Rivera was noncommittal about Smith being on the roster next season, Washington re-signed Heinicke to a two-year deal worth up to $8.75 million and is expected to bring back Allen.

Washington went 11-5 in games Smith started during his time with the team and 5-26 in games he didn't.

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