By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are Super Bowl champs, yet the best team in the NFL nearly had its postseason shut down as soon as it began way back on Super Wild Card Weekend.

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The man responsible for that precarious position? That was, of course, none other than Taylor Heinicke.

The quarterback was not exactly a household name prior to that night. Really, the first time people learned of his NFL existence came during that game, when viewers no doubt turned to their friends and family early in that game and asked, “WHO is the quarterback for Washington tonight? Man the NFC East is such trash. What a joke.”

What happened next was an electric performance from the 27-year-old, and a sudden interest in his looming free agency was born.

Alas, that excitement — such as it was — can now be canceled. Washington is keeping its guy.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that Washington has signed Heinicke to a two-year deal.

That deal pays him some real money, too.

It’s quite the sudden rise for a guy who had bounced around several NFL teams before playing in the XFL last season.He went undrafted out of Old Dominion in 2015, and he had stints with the Vikings, Patriots, Texans and Panthers before washing out of the league. He joined the XFL but didn’t even get to play there, serving as the backup to Jordan Ta’amu.

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Yet in December, he signed with Washington’s practice squad. And the release of Dwayne Haskins and an injury to Alex Smith opened the door for Heinicke to make his second career NFL start in the playoffs, opposite Tom Brady.

Compared to expectations placed upon him, Heinicke was outstanding that night, throwing for 306 yards with a touchdown and one pick, while also rushing for 46 yards and another touchdown.

As a result, fans of teams in need of a quarterback — including here in New England — started to wonder if Heinicke was a late bloomer who could provide some solid play.

Passer Rating vs. Tampa Bay, 2020 Playoffs
Aaron Rodgers: 101.6
Taylor Heinicke: 78.4
Patrick Mahomes: 52.3
Drew Brees: 38.1

While that path to greatness is unlikely to come to fruition, other teams won’t get to try to make it happen. The development of a soon-to-be-28-year-old Heinicke has become Washington’s project.

In New England, Heinicke’s time on the roster was brief. He signed to the practice squad on Sept. 23, 2017, and he was released three weeks later. He landed with the Texans shortly thereafter. In 2018, he started a game for Carolina, and it went quite poorly.

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Now several years later, his NFL career has been resurrected, but a Foxboro reunion is not in the cards. No, it was unlikely that such a signing was ever really going to be on Bill Belichick’s radar, but the Heinicke hype after the playoff loss was very real, so it’s only right to officially close the book on what briefly lived as a possibility for the Patriots at the most important position in sports.