Salk: What are Seahawks’ options with crucial QB decision looming?

Feb 6, 2024, 9:34 PM

Seattle Seahawks Geno Smith...

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith prepares for a snap against the Cleveland Browns in 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

I would love to see Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s to-do list. If he’s the type of guy who writes that stuff down and then checks things off one by one, this offseason has some doozies on it.

Hire a new coach? Check.

Fill out a coaching staff? Incomplete but getting close.

Re-sign pending free agents? Not yet.

Free agency and the draft? Evaluating, but that won’t start for a few weeks.

Make a crucial decision on Geno Smith’s future? RED ALERT! RED ALERT! RED ALERT!!!

This one needs to get done quick. In fact, we should know a lot more in just 10 days, as the Seahawks quarterback’s 2024 base salary of $12.7 million becomes guaranteed on Feb. 16. There are options after that – they could still trade him into March – but this is the first real personnel decision that Schneider must make along with his new partner Mike Macdonald.

As ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson has pointed out, Smith was good in 2023 but regressed from the previous season. More importantly, he lost his biggest advocate in the organization when previous head coach Pete Carroll disappeared. Henderson went so far as to term Schneider’s assessment of Smith as “tepid.”

So what will Schneider do with his first real deadline looming?

As I see it, the Seahawks have three, maybe four options at QB.

Option 1: Do nothing. Keep Geno and expect him to start this season.

Option 2: Do nothing… until April. In this scenario, Geno functions as a bridge to a different QB that Seattle drafts or acquires this offseason.

Option 3: Cut Geno and draft/acquire his successor.

Option 4: Cut Geno, sign Drew Lock for less.

(The last one is harder to gauge because we don’t yet know the market for Lock and what it would cost to sign him plus pay some dead cap money for Geno. It isn’t my preference, but it’s worth noting that Schneider has always seemed like a Lock fan.)

For most of this season, I found myself in the camp with those who identify with option 2 or option 3. I like Geno, but I don’t love him. I think he’s capable of winning with all the right pieces around him, but I don’t think he makes all of those pieces better.

I wrote that it was time to draft his successor. In a 2024 NFL Draft with six potential first-round talents at quarterback, the Seahawks have options if they want to go in that direction. The top three will likely belong gone before they pick at No. 16, but it is very possible that Michael Penix Jr., J.J. McCarthy and/or Bo Nix will be available.

Penix looks like an NFL stud. He makes every throw, has a cannon for an arm, is athletic in the pocket, and wins. McCarthy’s arm makes me a little nervous but he sure knows how to do the little things to lead and win games – plus he can really run. And Nix brings accuracy to the table, even if I’m not sure there is a whole lot more.

Jim Nagy: How Penix did at Senior Bowl, what makes him so unique

If Schneider truly believes that one of those three will change the course of history, he should go for it. Nothing affects a team like a generational talent under center. And with his eyes for Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, Schneider has shown he knows how to pick them.

With all of that being said, I hope he goes with option 1 and ignores the position in the first round.

Yes, this goes against what I believed during the season and yes, it is taking a chance passing on a quarterback who could lead this franchise for years to come. But if Mike Macdonald is truly going to bring his big, tough, physical, Baltimore style to Seattle as the new head coach, he needs big bodies. He needs stud offensive linemen who move people out of the way. He needs defensive linemen who stand their ground, clog up holes, and make life impossible on opposing coordinators trying to scheme their way down the field. Heck, he needs linebackers that can run and hit like the dynamic pair he coached last season.

I wish this wasn’t true. Maybe if they hadn’t drafted a cornerback and a wide receiver in last year’s first round, this would be different.

Maybe if Abe Lucas was fully healthy or Derick Hall had shown he could set an edge…

Maybe if Anthony Bradford was in better shape or if Damien Lewis had shown more consistency or if Jordyn Brooks was consistently healthy or…you get the idea.

The Seahawks have some really nice pieces, but they mostly play on the outside. And to be physical, they will need to get better up front. So, with all things being equal, they should keep Geno, draft a lineman at No. 16 (maybe Troy Fautanu or T’Vondre Sweat) and go from there. Sounds simple, right?

Wrong. This is the NFL and nothing is ever simple!

What if Macdonald looks at the current roster and believes the linemen are perfectly talented but haven’t been optimized due to scheme or communication issues? That would certainly clear the way to take more of a chance with a quarterback in the first round.

What if they want to trade down in the first round, acquire a second-round pick, then find a way to snag a legit presence up front and still pick up one of those quarterbacks if they fall to the second day?

What if they are truly, madly, deeply in love with one of the top three quarterbacks and believe something like a DK Metcalf trade could help facilitate a move up to get one?

Any of those scenarios are possible and all of them could affect the decision. But without any of that information, I would roll with Geno for another season and start the process of making this team resemble the physical Ravens group that thoroughly beat up the Seahawks this year.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Bumpus: How hire of Leslie Frazier helps Seahawks’ Mike Macdonald
Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy shares what to know about NFL Draft, a Seahawks fit
Huard: Seattle Seahawks who will benefit from Macdonald’s blitz schemes
Huard: Key stat for new coach Mike Macdonald that jumps out
Wyman: How Seattle Seahawks’ Macdonald can help Geno Smith

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