Lefko: What Seahawks do in draft and with Geno should be clear now

Dec 14, 2022, 12:37 AM | Updated: Jan 23, 2023, 3:36 pm

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Geno Smith during a 2022 Seattle Seahawks game against the Carolina Panthers. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Two things became clear, if they weren’t already, after a 30-24 loss to the Panthers: the Seahawks are drafting a defensive lineman with their first pick, and the Seahawks need to franchise tag Geno Smith.

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Our terrific crew at SeattleSports.com has written extensively about the problems with the Seahawks’ run defense, so I will spare you the regurgitation of all the stats. But with the soon to be top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft from the Broncos, the Seahawks will almost be required (by the social contract that requires teams to try and win football games) to draft one of the best defensive players available with their first pick.

That helps to solve one problem, and it sets the course to solving another.

Geno Smith is the best option for the Seahawks at quarterback next year. Beyond that, it’s uncertain. With the franchise tag in place, you don’t have to make that long-term commitment yet, but you do need to ensure that a capable quarterback is running the offense next year. Whenever the Seahawks do draft a quarterback (because they should), it won’t be someone who is ready to step in right away and elevate the offense in year 1 beyond what Smith can do.

A top-tier receiving duo of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett is in place for the next few seasons, and there is a young, ascendant core around it. Starting over at the most important position on offense undermines the continuity that has built up this season and muddies the ability to take a great leap forward in year 2 together. The Seahawks can’t risk being left with that as their only option, and there is a real chance of it happening should Smith hit free agency.

Smith deserves a payday, and he will get one. Even after this Panthers game where he finished with a season-low completion percentage (58.3), Smith leads the NFL with a 71.5% mark for the year. He’s also currently sixth in passing yards, fourth in touchdowns, and fifth in ESPN’s QBR metric – which seeks to show a quarterback’s total impact on a game. That is a guy playing like a top-tier quarterback, and there are QB-needy teams around the league (hello, Saints) that would throw out the money needed to sign him to a multi-year deal.

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Yet, the sample size is small. The Seahawks will have a clear picture after the season, but if there are still too many unknowns, the franchise tag also minimizes the risk of a bad, long-term decision. OverTheCap.com projects the franchise tag to be approximately $31.5 million. The salary cap continues to grow each year, which makes that number less of a cap hit than ever before, plus the going rate for quarterbacks in now in the mid-$30 million range.

For a guy like Geno Smith, 32 years old and finally about to cash in on his first payday, there will be no team-friendly deal. We’re not salary cap gurus nor general managers, so any of us are just speculating on a number, but why run the risk of coming away empty-handed when the franchise tag offers a bridge to staying a playoff contender in what is a quickly diminishing NFC.

The Seahawks have taken a giant, unexpected step forward this year. Drafting the best defensive player available, while maintaining stability at quarterback, keeps those steps moving in the right direction.

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Lefko: What Seahawks do in draft and with Geno should be clear now