MIKE SALK

Salk: Could Seahawks close the gap faster by not paying Geno Smith?

Jan 18, 2023, 12:18 AM | Updated: 11:43 am
Seahawks Geno Smith Drew Lock...
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll talks to Geno Smith while Drew Lock looks on in an Oct. 30, 2022 game. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

I think the Seahawks are going to re-sign Geno Smith. It certainly makes sense to do so.

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

He just had one of the best years in team history, throwing accurately, making good decisions, running well, and taking command of the offense in a way that no one could have expected. And if they sign him to be their quarterback for the next few years, it will be hard to argue with the decision. After all, it’s hard to find a legitimate starter at the most important position in all of sports.

He certainly seems to be a good one, though likely not quite in the elite category. I also assume that any contract he signs will reflect that view. He’ll sign for good money, though it shouldn’t be in the same range as the truly elite players in this league.

But before we all agree that this is the best way to proceed, let’s consider other options. There are a few of them.

The Seahawks could draft a quarterback in the first round. They have the picks and will likely have a shot at one of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or Will Levis. If they are in love with that player, they could certainly justify that decision. That said, free agency starts long before the draft so they would have to make a decision on Geno’s future before that opportunity presents itself.

The Seahawks could sign or trade for one of the other big names available. I don’t see Tom Brady as an option, but Lamar Jackson and Derek Carr could certainly fit. The former would cost mucho dinero (and I don’t see the Seahawks signing up for that kind of investment in a quarterback, though I would certainly be intrigued), and they both would cost draft capital they can ill afford to lose.

But for a team that has major needs throughout their roster and is especially short on game-changing players in the front lines of their defense, every available resource counts. So what if they opted to let Geno walk and place a bet on Drew Lock?

I know. It sounds crazy. Almost as crazy as letting Russell Wilson walk and betting on Geno Smith! But the Seahawks showed us this year that they aren’t going to be afraid of the unknown. They aren’t going to be prisoners to one player, and they believe their system allows them to succeed offensively without one of the elusive elite passers.

This wouldn’t be a simple comparison of Lock vs. Smith. Obviously, the first-hand knowledge of what Geno just accomplished would make him an obvious choice. But a more realistic equation has Smith on one side of the scale with Lock and roughly $20-25 million, which could be spent to upgrade this roster. You may be sure that Geno is worth more than Drew. But is he worth more than Drew plus, for instance, Fletcher Cox and an upgraded slot receiver? Or two big-time defensive linemen? Or a premier pass rusher?

I don’t know the answer – probably no one does because we haven’t seen what Drew looks like in this system. We know he is talented and quite a bit younger than Geno. We know he doesn’t quite have the accuracy but might be able to improve his decision making in a scheme that should fit his talents. But we don’t know if he can handle the leadership responsibilities or the command of the huddle like Geno did. We don’t know if he can stay as healthy as a man who played every offensive snap for 18 games. Those are very real concerns that Geno dispelled in his dream season.

But I think this question makes more sense than wondering whether Geno “deserves” a huge contract. It isn’t personal, but I don’t think teams can afford to think that way because it rewards the past rather than projecting the future. Of course those two are linked, and often one helps us predict the other. But as Clint Eastwood mutters at the end of “Unforgiven,” “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”

There are some very valid reasons to go with Geno next season. He has shown himself to be a capable leader, an accurate passer, a clutch performer (at times), and an excellent fit in this offensive scheme. Going with Geno would be a sensible choice that would be hard to criticize.

But this may be a time to consider being bold. That could mean selling out for Lamar Jackson. Or it could mean taking a risk on an unproven player that you have seen up close for a full year and now know better than anyone else. Especially if that gives you a chance to improve elsewhere.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says there is a talent gap between his squad and the best teams in the league. They need to find a way to close that gap, and that won’t happen without adding premier talent. Believe me, it gives me the creeps even asking about potentially downgrading at quarterback. But Pete and John Schneider should be considering every potential option to get better, and they have major holes that need to be filled, a young passer they say they like in Drew Lock, and a system they believe allows solid quarterbacks to succeed.

Is it better to be safe than sorry? Or does fortune favor the bold? The future of the Seahawks may depend on which cliché they choose to follow.

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