It took less than two games to transform quarterback Taylor Heinicke from a guy whose NFL career appeared over to signing a multiyear contract.
The Washington Football Team announced Wednesday that it re-signed Heinicke to a two-year deal, which is worth up to $8.75 million, a source confirmed. Heinicke would have been a restricted free agent, but Washington had made it clear it wanted to keep him based on how he finished the season.
Washington still has Alex Smith under contract for two more years, though his future with the team remains uncertain. Kyle Allen is an exclusive-rights free agent whom the coaches like. The team also has Steven Montez, an undrafted free agent last season.
Heinicke's showing put him in the conversation to at least be a primary backup and provide depth, if nothing else.
Heinicke was taking math classes at Old Dominion University, where he played collegiately, when Washington signed him to its practice squad Dec. 8. He had been out of the NFL since final cuts of 2019, going back and forth between living with his mom and his sister.
"I was not very fun to be around when I wasn't in the league," he said. "Those two have done so much for me. They kept my head straight."
He also worked out at a local gym. He said his story was one of hard work and resilience.
"A lot of times I didn't want to wake up and go work out but they kept on pushing me and here we are," he said. "This isn't just a big accomplishment for me, it's a lot of previous coaches, friends and family. They're just as big a part of this as I am."
Heinicke was placed on the active roster later in December and relieved an ineffective Dwayne Haskins in a Week 16 loss to Carolina. In two series, he led one touchdown drive and had another scoring toss nullified by a penalty.
With Smith struggling with a bone bruise, Heinicke started Washington's playoff game against Tampa Bay and was effective. He completed 26 of 44 passes for 306 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He also showed his mobility, scrambling for an 8-yard touchdown run that ended with him diving for the pylon.
Heinicke became a fan favorite and won over his teammates; receiver Terry McLaurin stopped him after that loss to let him know he appreciated him. Defensive end Chase Young became a big fan as well; Heinicke said Young would see him in the locker room studying his playbook when nobody else was around.
Heinicke signed with Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2015, playing for current Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner. He was the lone NFL coach who visited Heinicke for his pro day. After two seasons with Minnesota, Heinicke spent time on the practice squads of New England and then Houston. He then signed with Carolina, coached by current Washington coach Ron Rivera.
Heinicke played six games with Carolina, starting one. In his lone start he was 33-of-53 for 274 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He suffered an elbow injury that landed him on injured reserve.
The NFL Network first reported the money on Heinicke's contract.