MIKE SALK

Salk: Seahawks trade is a big statement — and a bet on Geno Smith

Nov 2, 2023, 12:06 AM

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks prior to an Oct. 29, 2023 game against Cleveland. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

At 5-2 and leading the NFC West, the Seattle Seahawks have had a tremendous start. They have exceeded expectations, especially on defense, and put themselves in a position to have their most successful season in years.

Bumpus: ‘Defense is the identity’ of Seattle Seahawks right now

After beating Cleveland and taking over the division lead, general manager John Schneider decided to bet on his team. He gave up future assets for a current one, bringing in stud defensive tackle Leonard Williams. His team got better. It got deeper. It got more stout against the run. It will force opposing offenses to scheme for one more dude who can blow up your plans if you don’t account for his whereabouts. And he sent a message to the locker room that this team is good enough to deserve extra resources.

The trade makes the Seahawks a Super Bowl contender. Maybe not in the top tier where Kansas City, Buffalo, Miami, Philly and San Francisco have the edge, but in the next group with Baltimore, Dallas, Detroit and a few others. It might even put Seattle at or near the top of that second list.

The Seahawks now have a deep and talented defensive line to go with an elite secondary and linebacking corps that has raised its game. They have an especially deep offensive line that is young and improving as it gets healthier, stacked groups of running backs and tight ends, and a wide receiver corps that certainly is talented enough to hang with anyone. This full roster is better than any we have seen in Seattle since injuries ended the careers of Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril in 2017. It is fast, physical, balanced, young and confident.

That is great news for every Seahawks fan. And it puts the spotlight squarely on quarterback Geno Smith.

Geno has not had an ideal start to the 2023 season. While the team has won, he hasn’t been nearly as efficient or effective as we saw last year. The turnovers are up, the potential turnovers are even higher, and the offense just hasn’t moved as smoothly as we had hoped. With the bolstered defensive line and roster in general, it’s not unreasonable to say that quarterback is among the weaker positions on the team and could be the piece that holds them back from top-tier success.

In Geno’s defense, he’s had a constantly changing offensive line, which has often required extra blockers – and thus fewer receivers in the pattern – and for him to play a greater role in the protection portion of the game. He’s also led a couple of late game-winning drives, the ultimate barometer in my book for playing the position successfully.

Yet most observers have understandably wanted more. Geno is no longer a good story and great value. He needs to be more than the surprise reclamation project that is playing with nothing to lose. He’s making legit money and the Seahawks have to decide after each of the next two seasons if he is worth it.

In trading next year’s second-round pick for Williams, the Seahawks made their first statement that they believe he is exactly that. If Schneider and coach Pete Carroll didn’t believe they could win a Super Bowl with their current quarterback, I don’t believe they would have made this trade.

First of all, would you commit more resources to a team that you think had a fatal flaw at its most important position? Probably not. You might try to bolster the roster around him or work to minimize his importance to the final product, but you wouldn’t throw more assets at a problem that wasn’t fixable.

Second, if you were determined to select a quarterback high in the upcoming draft (which is extremely strong and deep at the position), would you trade your second-best pick? I sure wouldn’t.

(Note: This isn’t to say it is impossible to imagine the Seahawks selecting a quarterback in the first round next year. If they truly believe that is the only missing piece, they could still do that and wait until the third round to select again. If they needed to move up in the round, they could always offer their 2025 first-rounder. They could, but that would sure surprise me.)

To add to that point, the Seahawks could have had high-end defensive talent for less than they gave up to get Williams. The Niners acquired Chase Young for a third-rounder, and the Bears gave up the same for Montez Sweat, both players that could have helped Seattle. That they dealt more for Williams tells me they preferred his skillset and were comfortable enough to miss that higher pick in the draft.

The Williams trade is a strong statement of faith by the Seahawks in their 2023 roster. It rewards the players and coaches for an excellent start and gives them the horsepower to compete for something special. It’s also a sign of encouragement for Geno Smith. It gives him more of an opportunity to sink or swim with all the resources he needs around him to succeed. I can’t wait to see how he responds.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Williams gets thrown into competition right away with Seahawks
K.J. Wright: What Seahawks get in adding Leonard Williams, who it helps
Huard: Why Seahawks gave up more for Williams than 49ers did for Young
Lefko: Gap closed? How Seahawks, 49ers match up after trade deadline
Wyman’s Football 101: How will Williams fit into Seattle Seahawks’ defense?

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