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Monson: The Washington Football Team is building a contender despite no elite QB

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) celebrates a touchdown pass to Miami Dolphins tight end Durham Smythe (81) in the second quarter to give the Dolphins a 21-0 lead against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 18, 2020. [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]

The Washington Football Team has a real chance to contend for a Super Bowl in 2021 despite relying on Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.

Typical team-building begins with the quarterback position, but Washington’s 2020 season closed the book on the last first-round quarterback the team selected as well as took them out of contention for most of the potential first-round rookies in this draft. Washington picked No. 19 in the first round, with many analysts predicting that the five top passers could all be gone well inside the first 10 selections. As it turns out, Mac Jones slipped all the way to No. 15, but we have no idea if Washington thought he was capable of being a major upgrade and the future of the team.

Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson and now Aaron Rodgers have been mooted as elite veteran quarterbacks who could be available via trade, but each would require a potentially crippling haul to secure, and you can understand any team — particularly one that is already quite strong — not wanting to hamstring its future to secure a quarterback.

So, the Football Team did what you do when you have a solid team but no real direction at quarterback: they called Ryan Fitzpatrick.

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Perhaps the most underrated part of Washington’s offseason is that Fitzpatrick is a major upgrade over their quarterback situation from a season ago. He may be 38 years old, but the past three years of his NFL career have been his best yet. He ranks 15th in PFF passing grade over that time, almost exactly league average.

And while a league-average quarterback isn’t what everybody’s chasing, it’s a significantly better baseline than the combination of Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen and Alex Smith from 2020. Taylor Heinicke played far better than that in his playoff cameo, but his NFL career consists of just 138 dropbacks, so who knows what he is capable of over a 17-game schedule going forward.

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