Redskins get desired quarterback continuity with Alex Smith
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By STEPHEN WHYNO
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Doug Williams looked at Alex Smith and slightly exaggerated the commitment the Washington Redskins made to their new soon-to-be 34-year-old quarterback.
"He can play to 40," Williams said Thursday. "Can you, Alex? Look at him. I think he can."
Smith smiled back and has plenty to be happy about. The veteran is now the Redskins' franchise quarterback after being acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs and signing a $94 million, four-year extension with $71 million guaranteed that keeps him under contract through 2022.
He'd be 38 if he plays out that deal, one that shows the Redskins were willing to commit long term to Smith the way they never did with Kirk Cousins. As Williams implied Cousins didn't want to be in Washington for the long haul, Smith made it clear he did.
"This is where I wanted to be," Smith said. "It looked fun. I wanted to be a part of it."
Smith gives the Redskins the kind of continuity at the position they lacked with Cousins, who became the first QB in NFL history to play back-to-back seasons under the franchise tag before signing a fully guaranteed $84 million, three-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings.
"I do believe that Washington had a lot of great pieces," Cousins said at his introductory news conference. "They will have a lot of great pieces going forward and the margin of error is small. The difference between winning and losing is so small."
Cousins' year-to-year status and propensity for mistakes in big moments outweighed his three consecutive 4,000-yard seasons to Washington's front office, which decided to target Smith.
"That's somebody you can build your team around and know he's going to be here, year in and year out," coach Jay Gruden said. "You're not always looking down the road: `Oh, who's going to be our quarterback next year?'"
Williams said three or four other teams were also attempting to get Smith, which the Redskins did by sending a 2018 third-round pick and promising young cornerback Kendall Fuller to Kansas City.
Smith had some say in his destination because he had to agree to the extension that Williams joked, "If we have to add a couple more years to it, we'll do that, too."
That was never going to happen with Cousins, a 2012 fourth-round pick taken the same draft as Robert Griffin III who thrived under the impression he was not wanted. From the Redskins' perspective, that went both ways.
"It wasn't a matter of wanting to commit to the other guy," Williams said of Cousins. "We had to look at it what we had to do that's going to be best for us, somebody who wanted to be here."
Smith's introduction six weeks after the trade and extension were agreed to came with a welcome gift as the Redskins signed former Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Paul Richardson to a five-year deal that's reported to be worth $40 million.
Richardson saw what DeSean Jackson did as a fellow speed threat in this offense and talked to former Washington receiver Pierre Garcon about the situation and figured it would be a good fit to catch balls from Smith.
"I want him to know I'm always available," said Richardson, who has 95 catches for 1,302 yards and eight touchdowns in four seasons. "Just throw it. It don't matter where it is. I'm going to go get it. And I'm going to turn him into a believer."
Smith has already made the Redskins' brass into believers, and the entire organization from owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen down showed up for his much-hyped introductory news conference.
Standing in the same building that Cousins roamed the past three seasons as the starter, Smith looked comfortable being the guy and understanding the faith the franchise put in him.
"We've got to go win games," Smith said. "Excited about the opportunity because that's what it is at this point. It's an opportunity, and we've got to go make the most of it."
Gruden praised Smith for having "all the traits" to be successful, and Williams sees the same on-field characteristics.
But the Super Bowl MVP QB-turned-executive also sees another benefit in the locker room of Smith being under contract long term.
"I don't think the fans really understand when you talk about stability and when you know the guy that's going to be leading this team is going to be in your locker room for the next three to four to five years, that's a good feeling," Williams said.
"I think now they can relax and even during the season don't have to worry about whether our fearless leader's going to be here next year."
NOTES: The Redskins re-signed LB Zach Brown, whom they added in free agency a year ago. ... According to tweets from their agents, WR Brian Quick re-signed and former Cowboys P Sam Irwin-Hill signed with Washington.
AP Pro Football Writers Dave Campbell and Howard Fendrich contributed.
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Updated March 15, 2018