Washington re-signed quarterback Taylor Heinicke on Wednesday to a two-year, $8.75 million contract.
Heinicke was out of football and taking college classes online when Washington signed him to the practice squad in December. An injury to Alex Smith and the release of Dwayne Haskins thrust him into action late in the season, and he made his NFL playoff debut in a loss to the eventual Super Bowl-champion Buccaneers.
The 27-year-old impressed against Tampa, going 26 of 44 for 306 yards, a touchdown pass and an interception and rushing for a team-high 46 yards and a score. The Old Dominion product who bounced around the league for several seasons said afterward he’d like to be back.
“Hopefully I deserve to be in this league a little longer,” Heinicke said. “I’ve been on the other side, not playing, being in the real world and it’s not fun. It’s not as fun as this. I want to be in the NFL. I want to keep playing ball.”
Heinicke will be in Washington’s QB mix, which remains very much in flux. Coach Ron Rivera indicated Kyle Allen will be back but was noncommittal about Comeback Player of the Year Alex Smith being on the roster in 2021.
Washington could also trade for or sign a veteran to compete with Heinicke and Allen or use the No. 19 draft pick on a developmental prospect.
“We all saw how Taylor Heinicke played in the playoff game,” executive vice president of personnel and football Marty Hurney said. “First, you start with evaluating your roster. Then you look at the quarterbacks that are out there. A lot of times it’s all about timing in the draft, what position you’re in and who’s out there available.”
Heinicke went undrafted and had stints with Minnesota, New England and Houston before landing with Rivera in Carolina in 2018. He made his first start with the Panthers that year and didn't play again until relieving Haskins in Week 16 this season.
Signed to be the “quarantine quarterback," Heinicke went 12 of 19 for 137 yards and a touchdown in that game. His familiarity with offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system gave the coaching staff confidence that Heinicke could play in the wild-card game with Smith nursing a right calf injury.
Heinicke separated his left shoulder against Tampa Bay diving for the pylon at the corner of the end zone and in the process earned respect from teammates for his gutsy play.
“That dude plays with no fear, and he’s going to give his playmakers a chance to make plays,” receiver Terry McLaurin said. “He’s going to extend plays, run and take hits. He’s going to do everything you asked for a quarterback to do in this league.”
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