STACY ROST

Rost: What are the Seahawks’ options with QB Geno Smith?

Jan 17, 2023, 9:13 AM
Seahawks Geno Smith...
Seahawks QB Geno Smith celebrates after defeating the Rams in overtime on Jan. 8, 2023. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)
(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

The Seahawks may not hold a pick this high for more than a decade. That’s the hope at least.

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If they wind up with another, and another after that, then maybe they’ll have a shot to build the kind of defense they were treated to in Santa Clara. But for this draft at least, John Schneider and Pete Carroll have a single chance to use the highest draft pick they’ve had during their tenure.

The direction feels obvious. The biggest problem for this team all year long was its defense. Seattle allowed the third-most rushing yards in the league (2,554), allowed the fourth-most yards after catch (2,101) and only the Panthers allowed opponents to possess the ball for longer. They need more pass rush, as well as linebacker help to bolster support for Jordyn Brooks when he’s able to return from surgery.

But even Carroll – an ardent support of Geno Smith all year long – knows they need to at least explore the quarterback position.

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“If we didn’t have a quarterback that functioned really well it might’ve been a little bit different,” Carroll said Monday when asked whether Smith’s Pro Bowl season changed Seattle’s draft approach. “The quarterbacks in this draft are extraordinary players. You don’t get opportunities like this. We are really tuned into all of those options.”

But what if the Seahawks want to stick with Smith? Yes, there were late season struggles – and just one season thus far of Pro Bowl play – but Smith still set franchise records in passing yards (4,282), attempts (572), completions (399) and completion percentage (69.8%).

Seattle has a few options when it comes to Smith’s future…

Re-sign him to a new deal

Smith’s told reporters after Saturday’s playoff loss that he’d like to remain in Seattle.

“I want to finish my career in Seattle,” Smith said. “I want to be here. The town, the city, the team, Coach Carroll, the organization, they all embraced me. I was a guy who probably could have been out of the league. They embraced me and I want to repay them for that.”

But whether it’s another one-year deal or a multi-year contract, the $3.5 million contract Smith signed last spring isn’t going to cut it this time around. And that’s fair. Whether it’s one year or not, Smith’s value to any franchise – not just Seattle – has gone up. His market and his chance to more than double his career earnings has never been hotter. And who wouldn’t want that opportunity? Even with his preference for Seattle considered, the Seahawks will need to make a competitive offer to keep him from signing with quarterback-needy teams.

Spotrac has Smith’s market value projected at a two-year, $78 million contract. Salary cap expert Joel Corry believes Smith could be re-signed for a bit less, closer to $32 million per year. That number is similar to the average yearly salary in deals signed by Matt Ryan ($30 million), Carson Wentz ($32 million), Jared Goff ($33.5 million) and Kirk Cousins ($35 million), all of whom trailed Smith in every passing category this year. Smith may be willing to accept slightly less if it means playing where he wants to (in this case Seattle) but it would also mean being underpaid.

If committing to the 32-year-old Smith long term isn’t your preferred option, then there’s a short term option…

Franchise tag

A one year fully-guaranteed contract, the franchise tag is the average of the top five salaries at the position or 120% of the previous year’s salary, whichever is greater. We don’t know exactly what that number will be in 2023, but the non-exclusive tag projects to be around $32 million while the exclusive rights franchise tag projects closer to $45 million (the latter gives the Seahawks more power and leverage as the only team able to negotiate, but also costs a pretty penny). The last time the Seahawks used the franchise tag it was to place a non-exclusive tag on defensive end Frank Clark.

The Seahawks could trade Smith or even reach an agreement on a longer deal – though there’s a mid-July deadline for that.

And of course with either of these options, Seattle can still draft a quarterback to grow and develop while Smith resumes his starting role in 2023.

Still not feeling this route? Then you have one more option…

Let him walk

Look, a starting quarterback agreeing to play for $10 million per year would be great for Seattle’s salary cap. But it just doesn’t happen with veterans hitting free agency coming off a season like Smith’s. If the Seahawks don’t want to re-sign Smith to a multi-year deal, nor to a one year deal, nor use a franchise tag – all of which would be looking at salaries likely exceeding $30 million – then they’re out of options. Smith will find a market welcoming him as one of the best two free agent optons at quarterback, in addition to Jimmy Garropolo (this is assuming Tom Brady, also a free agent, rides off into the sunset).

And if that’s the case, Seattle can tap into free agency themselves. There are options: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Daniel Jones, Case Keenum, Mike White, Andy Dalton, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke. (I didn’t say they were great options.) Derek Carr can be acquired via trade and Lamar Jackson will be a free agent if the Ravens don’t use the franchse tag, but if $30 million makes you nervous you’re not going to love a potential deal for Jackson.

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