JOE FANN

Fann: Geno Smith’s play forcing Seahawks to reevaluate QB future

Oct 27, 2022, 12:22 AM
Seahawks Geno Smith...
Seahawks QB Geno Smith celebrates a touchdown run by Kenneth Walker III in a game on Oct. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)
(AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

For as bizarre as the first seven weeks of this NFL season have been, no storyline has taken people by surprise as much as the Seahawks’ Geno Smith playing like a top five quarterback in football. In fact, he has been a top two QB in the NFC along with Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts. That’s not up for debate, either.

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Smith ranks third in QBR (66.8) and passer rating (107.7), first in completion percentage (73.5%), third in Pro Football Focus grade (83.6), and is tied for sixth in passing touchdowns (11). He’s also added an additional touchdown on the ground and thrown just three interceptions.

Seattle’s offense as a whole ranks fifth in scoring, 12th in total yards, seventh in net yards per pass attempt (6.8), first in yards per rush attempt (5.5), third in DVOA and seventh in PFF grade.

Smith’s excellence has been the predominant factor in the Seahawks’ 4-3 start that has them currently in first place of the NFC West.

My assumption going into the year was that Smith would be anywhere from an adequate to excellent game manager, and I say that in as positive a light as possible. The term “game manager” doesn’t get enough credit. You can win a lot of games with a game manager, as personally defined as a QB who takes what’s there and doesn’t turn the ball over. But Smith has surpassed that bar and reached a threshold where he’ll be a Pro Bowler if he keeps it up.

Smith’s accuracy has been among the best in the NFL while his ability to navigate the pocket, extend plays with his legs, push the ball downfield and fit the ball into tight coverage are all skills that seem to be improving each week.

And now we’re far enough into the season to start asking some serious questions about how Smith might have the Seahawks rethinking their future at the quarterback position. Smith is currently in his fourth season in Seattle, having signed four separate one-year deals. He went from making $1.2 million in 2021 as Russell Wilson’s backup to $3.5 million as the team’s starter in 2022.

That bargain will assuredly last just this one year. Even if Smith can’t keep up his current pace, he’s put enough on tape to warrant a job as a bridge starter for someone in 2023 and likely beyond. The floor for that kind of deal is likely Marcus Mariota’s two-year, $18.5 million contract with the Falcons. Heck, Jameis Winston is getting paid $14 million APY with $21 million in guarantees on his current deal in New Orleans.

Smith, who just turned 32 in October, will finally be able to cash in on a long-awaited and well-earned payday. And Smith shouldn’t leave a dime on the table given he’s had to sign six consecutive one-year deals and bide his time as a backup until finally getting his chance to start this season. He’s been a gracious pro through-and-through.

That puts Seattle’s front office in somewhat of a precarious spot. It can’t hurt for John Schneider and Co. to approach Geno Smith’s agent in order to gauge what it would take to get the quarterback to sign an extension and forgo free agency next offseason. While Smith has earned his chance to test the open market, signing now would lock in his first true payday and give him insurance in case of injury.

Keeping Smith around is a no-brainer for Seattle regardless of whether the team intends to draft a first-round QB in 2023. Having Smith on the roster to be a mentor and high-level starter for at least Year 1 of this hypothetical rookie’s career would be invaluable. Seattle’s own first-round pick will likely be outside the range of the top QBs in the 2023 draft class, but the team might still be in the mix for one of them if Denver’s immense struggles continue. That’s because the Seahawks own the Broncos’ 2023 first-rounder, of course.

If Smith does reach free agency, it’s certain that Seattle would have competition to sign him. This is a net positive for the Seahawks as they’re enjoying a surprise season that should keep them in the NFC’s playoff picture, if not claim a spot in the postseason all together. They’re doing so with the best bargain in the NFL when you consider what several inferior quarterbacks are getting paid this season.

There’s no harm in looking to the future and figuring out how to keep Smith in Seattle for at least another year. Working out a mid-season extension could end up being the ultimate win-win for both sides. The inability to do so, at least from Seattle’s standpoint, would likely result in a less-desirable options in terms of veteran signal callers.

FOX’s Mark Schlereth compares Geno’s Seahawks to Wilson’s Broncos so far

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