Kirk Cousins will soon be in another team’s uniform. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Post Sports columnist Tom Boswell was asked in his weekly online chat with readers how he thinks the Redskins will fare this year, now that Kirk Cousins is on his way out, Alex Smith is on his way in and free agency is about to begin.  

Question: What do you think it will take to get into contention in the NFC East? Especially now with arguably the best team in football, the Eagles, in our division.

Boswell: I think a better question would be: What will it take for the Skins to get to 8-8 (or 9-7) without Cousins and whomever else they lose in free agency?

We are about to find out how much damage the Skins did to themselves with the terrible optics of the twin departures of Cousins this year and ex-GM Scot McCloughan after ’16. How big will the effect be of: “OMG, don’t go to Washington. Cousins was the only thing that prevented it from being obvious that they’re still an organizational mess.” The issue is: How are they PERCEIVED by free agents, rather than What Are They Really?

Are they going to have another free agent class with bottom-of-the-barrel players like Terrelle Pryor, who looked like the beneficiary of inflated stats in his barely-1,000-yard season in Cleveland in ’16?

The Skins have so many needs. I assume they’ll re-sign LB Zach Brown because they MUST. But if he gets away, it could be a save-face free agency period. The Skins have had those in their bad-image periods in the past. Though the team always cranks up its PR efforts to make whatever players it got seem better than they are.

Alex Smith was a wonderful salvage trade, but losing both Cousins and a high-quality player and person in Kendall Fuller will hurt. Is [Bashaud] Breeland coming back?

Getting Smith means that [Jay] Gruden’s offensive theories will get a fair chance to continue being productive. But can Smith show the quick release and precision passing to make this weak corps of receivers (and no first-and-second-down RB) look decent? Smith has always been asked to be a 3,000-yard-plus QB, not a 4,000-yard-plus QB. He was surrounded by wonderful weapons in KC last season. It’s very doubtful he’ll have anything remotely similar in ’18.

Good news: Skins got Smith and can’t possibly get hurt as much in ’18 as they were in ’17. Bad news: They need a RB, a WR and at least one of everything for each defensive unit — line, LBs and DBs.

Read more Redskins coverage:

Entering Gruden’s fifth year, Redskins have big decisions to make

Redskins are talking with free agent defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson

Jordan Reed’s health will be a key to Redskins’ success this year