Clayton: Why Seahawks didn’t need an upgrade for Russell Wilson’s backup

Apr 26, 2021, 12:46 PM
Seahawks Geno Smith...
Geno Smith will be Russell Wilson's backup QB for a third straight season. (Getty)

Backup quarterbacks are important in the NFL. If a contending team like the Seahawks loses its starter, chances of making the playoffs aren’t good.

Bumpus: The small-school WR Seahawks should consider drafting

Last week, the Seahawks re-signed Geno Smith to a minimum salary deal to return for a third year as Russell Wilson’s backup. He got a one-year, $1,212,500 contract that included a $137,500 signing bonus. The contract counts as $987,500 against the cap.

Critics said the Seahawks should have gone out, paid more and got a better backup than Smith, but that’s not the trend in the NFL. Around the league, only 16 teams are paying more than the minimum for a backup. Seven of the 12 playoff teams from 2020 – New Orleans, Cleveland, Buffalo, Chicago, Green Bay, Kansas City and Washington – have backups making more than the minimum salary. In the case of the Packers, they have last year’s first-round choice Jordan Love making $3.095 million on his rookie contract.

Smith is just fine as Wilson’s backup. He’s 30 years old and has the experience of 41 NFL starts. In two years with the Seahawks, he has only played one game and thrown just five passes, completing four. But he’s a smaller, mobile quarterback who fits in the Wilson offense should Seattle need to turn to him.

Look around the NFC West. Nate Sudfeld is the backup in San Francisco. He’s on a one-year, $990,000 minimum salary deal. The Arizona Cardinals signed Colt McCoy, who is making the same money as Smith, to be Kyler Murray’s backup. It’s a one-year, $1,212,500 deal. John Wolford is the Los Angeles Rams backup and he’s only making $630,000 a year.

This is a quarterback-driven league. To be a playoff contender, you have to have a top quarterback. Those quarterbacks are at the top of the pay scale because they are that important. Because those quarterbacks eat up so much of the salary cap, teams have to make compromises to save cap room. And it’s even more pronounced this year with the cap down 8 percent at $182.5 million.

Running back, guard and backup quarterback seem to be the positions making the sacrifices with the smaller cap. Among last year’s playoff teams, only Chicago, Cleveland and Green Bay paying more than $2.5 million for a backup. The Seahawks’ re-signing of Geno Smith was just fine.

Follow John Clayton on Twitter.

More from John: Seahawks ‘bargain shopped’ but filled out CB nicely

John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle
  • 710AM ESPN SeattleTune in to 710 ESPN Seattle on Saturday mornings for The John Clayton Show.

Clayton Video tab

The Professor's Notes

John Clayton hosts a daily video breaking down the NFL

John Clayton

Seahawks Pete Carroll...
John Clayton

Clayton: Where the Seahawks stand after blowing lead to fall to 1-1

The Seahawks blew a two-score lead in their overtime loss to the Titans on Sunday. What jumps out as they sit at 1-1? John Clayton breaks it down.
2 days ago
Seahawks Titans...
John Clayton

Clayton: Seahawks are catching the Tennessee Titans at the right time

The Seahawks caught the Colts at the right time. Now, John Clayton says there's two reasons they're catching the Titans at a good time, too.
5 days ago
Seahawks Russell Wilson Chris Carson...
John Clayton

Clayton: Seahawks look like Super Bowl contenders after Week 1

Fresh off the Seahawks' 28-16 win over the Colts in Week 1, John Clayton breaks down his observations from a very impressive season opener.
9 days ago
Seahawks Quandre Diggs...
John Clayton

Clayton: Seahawks in great shape after resolving Brown, Diggs contracts

The Seahawks may not have extended Duane Brown and Quandre Diggs, but by restructured their deals they maintain flexibility while making both players happy.
13 days ago
Seahawks Pete Carroll...
John Clayton

Clayton: Where Seahawks stand after busy start to Week 1 of 2021 season

The Seahawks have been busy early this week. Could more news be coming? John Clayton on what he expects is next and the latest Hawks moves.
15 days ago
Seahawks linebackers...
John Clayton

Clayton: Where Seahawks stand at LB and CB ahead of Week 1 opener

With just over a week remaining before Week 1, John Clayton takes a closer look at the Seahawks' situations at linebacker and cornerback.
19 days ago
Clayton: Why Seahawks didn’t need an upgrade for Russell Wilson’s backup