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

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.

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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.

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