One of the year's best feel-good stories has met the cold realities of the NFL.
The Washington Football Team has opted to release Alex Smith, according to multiple media reports.
Smith was the comeback player of the year and was widely celebrated for returning from a gruesome leg injury that nearly led to amputation.
But he also turns 37 later this season, struggled with a late-season injury on his surgically repaired leg, and would have been owed $19 million next season in Washington, money the team does not have to pay or count against the salary cap once he's released.
The official paperwork doesn't have to be filed for another week, but announcing the move allows Smith time to find a new team before free agency begins in two weeks.
At the end of last season, Smith said he'd take time and think over his future in football, noting the heavy toll his injury and comeback placed on his wife, Elizabeth.
But after winning the comeback player of the year award, Smith has been on a media tour, appearing in People Magazine, 60 Minutes and other major outlets to discuss his comeback and future.
In those interviews, particularly a recent one with GQ Magazine, he's sounded more determined to continue playing and see if he can build on his remarkable story.
Washington was always an unlikely place for him to do that, both because of the money and new coach Ron Rivera's desire to rebuild the team around younger players that could play for a longer period of time.
The team is committed to young quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen, and is expected to add another this offseason.
There is expected to be a market for Smith, who has been lauded as a good teammate when working with young quarterbacks in San Francisco, Kansas City and Washington, but it's likely any contact he receives will be dependent on playing-time incentives.
The new league year starts on March 17, and the salary cap will be announced shortly before then.
The league's initial estimate was a $180 million cap, a drop of about $20 million from last year, but if the league is able to complete extensions on its TV deals before then, they have the option of lifting the cap to $200 million, allowing more teams to be active in the market.
Washington's decision to release Smith will make the team a major player in free agency. Once he is released, the Football Team will have the fourth-most available cap space of all NFL teams.