Rost’s Seahawks Breakdown: What’s next after locking up Geno Smith

Mar 7, 2023, 12:19 AM
Seahawks QB Geno Smith...
Seahawks QB Geno Smith looks on prior to a game against the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 9, 2022. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
(Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The Seahawks still have a long offseason ahead full of difficult decisions – some of which are quite exciting – but they managed to check the biggest task off Monday: figure out the quarterback situation.

Seahawks, QB Geno Smith agree to terms on contract extension

That doesn’t mean they’re done there. But before we get to what’s next, here’s what you need to know:

Geno Smith and the Seahawks agreed to terms on a contract extension, reported to be a three-year, $105 million deal by The Score’s Jordan Schultz. The average annual value works out to $35 million, or a few million north of this year’s $32.4 million franchise tag for QBs. Per ESPN, that includes potential earnings of $52 million in the first year. The team confirmed the news Monday evening but additional details, including guaranteed money and information about this year’s salary cap hit, haven’t yet been reported.

Smith, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal last March, earned his first Pro Bowl nod and was named Comeback Player of the Year in 2022. He was one of four quarterbacks to throw for 30 or more touchdowns and also set Seahawks franchise records for single-season passing yards (4,282), completions (399) and completion percentage (69.8%). That completion rate also led the league.

The deal caps off one of the season’s best stories: Smith, who spent six years as a backup and has earned $17.5 million over the course of his nine-year career, has an opportunity to nearly triple that total in one year. The reward simultaneously gives Seattle security on offense in 2023 and sparks a debate about whether Smith can lead the team to a Super Bowl.

Related: Seahawks betting on Geno Smith leads to a big question

Could the Seahawks still draft a QB?

This is more about what comes next for Seattle, because secondary to whether Smith can be the guy long-term is whether that guy for Seattle could still be in this year’s draft.

Knowing this front office, fans still shouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Seahawks selecting a quarterback. There’s history, temptation and recent insight from both general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll.

The Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in 2012 after signing free agent Matt Flynn to a three-year deal. Context remains important: Wilson was a third-round pick, while Smith’s 2022 season was better than anything Green Bay saw from then-backup Flynn – and it’s not close. Smith isn’t a backup getting his shot with a new team; rather, he’s a starter already plenty familiar with the playbook and the program, and any drafted rookie will have a tough time prying that gig away. This history lesson is less about a direct comp to Flynn and Wilson and more a reminder that Schneider and Carroll aren’t afraid to take risks if they like a player enough (see: trades for Jamal Adams, Jimmy Graham, and Percy Harvin).

That’s why temptation and some recent insight from Carroll and Schneider become important factors. The Seahawks have secured a Pro Bowl veteran at quarterback. They also have the No. 5 overall pick in the first round of next month’s NFL Draft, which would be the highest pick of Carroll and Schneider’s tenure.

“The position we’re in, we are totally connected to the quarterbacks that are coming out,” Carroll said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine when asked whether the team could draft a quarterback fifth overall. “This is a really huge opportunity for us. It’s a rare opportunity. We’ve been drafting in the low 20s for such a long time; you just don’t get the chance with these guys, so we’re deeply involved with all that.”

When Schneider was later asked why Seattle would consider drafting a quarterback when – in this hypothetical – they would have signed Smith to a new deal, his reply was blunt.

“Because they don’t grow on trees.”

Seattle could go the route of Kansas City or Green Bay in years past: draft a quarterback in the first round and let him sit behind an older veteran. A player like Florida’s Anthony Richardson, who boosted his own draft stock with an impressive combine showing, could be available in the latter half of the top 10 if Seattle were to trade back.

Still, a first-round pick on a quarterback feels less likely now when you consider what Seattle must do next this offseason.

Next up: Defense

If figuring out quarterback was the first task, improving this defense is the second. And with free agency just over a week away, the Seahawks will waste little time addressing it.

Seattle’s pass defense improved year over year, going from 31st to 17th. That was in part due to a Pro Bowl season from rookie corner Tariq Woolen and solid play from Seattle’s other starters. But it may also have been because teams could run all over Seattle’s defense. Only Chicago and Houston allowed more rushing yards per game, and they’re the teams looking at the top two picks in this year’s draft.

Worse still is that a number of holes are opening in the front seven with defensive tackle Poona Ford and linebacker Cody Barton set to become free agents and linebacker Jordyn Brooks still recovering from a torn ACL. The Seahawks presumably have a bit less money to spend now – though they will still need to dip into free agency – but they own plenty of draft capital (10 picks total, with four in the first two rounds) to address needs at inside linebacker and on the defensive line.

What else is there to do in this phase of the offseason?

Seattle entered the week with the eighth-most salary cap space at around $23 million. We’re still waiting on details about Smith’s cap hit under his new deal, but we know at least part of this will go toward drafted players later this spring.

Now comes deals for pending free agents (does Brooks’ injury mean bringing back Barton for 2023?), and potential restructures (seven players will have cap hits of $10 million or more) and cuts. Free agency begins next Wednesday, March 15 at 1 p.m. Pacific, with the legal tampering period beginning Monday.

The Score’s Jordan Schultz: “Geno really wanted to stay” with Seahawks

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