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What a Geno Smith contract could look like for Seahawks

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The season is officially over for the Seattle Seahawks, and now that the offseason has arrived, the time has come to answer the litany of roster questions the team will face in the coming months. First and foremost, of course, will be figuring things out at the quarterback position, and that means meeting the contract demands of Geno Smith.

It’s a question that fans have been debating for weeks, and with both sides publicly stating they want to get something done this week, it appears likely simply a matter of figuring out how much. Thus, the question becomes how much will be needed, and to answer that we’ll look at a couple of different methodologies to lay the foundation of what a contract for Smith could look like.

Multiple Tag Method

The first, and simplest, method to determining how much the team would need to pay Smith simply comes down to how much it would cost to retain his services using the franchise tag. The tag for quarterbacks is projected to be in the neighborhood of $32.5M for 2023, though the exact number will not be known until the salary cap is actually set for the season. However, the projected number can get things into the ballpark and is a reasonable starting point.

With a $32.5M tag for 2023, that’s the starting point for any negotiations on a year contract. If the Seahawks don’t believe he’s worth that much for a single season, they can allow him to depart as a free agent. It’s that simple.

However, the drawback of the franchise tag is that it only secures the services of Smith for a single season, and a year from now the Hawks are right back in this same position of needing to address the quarterback position. After they had to address the quarterback position in 2022 after trading Russell Wilson.

In addition, while the team is not yet hurting for cap space for 2023, they currently have 47 players under contract for the upcoming season and are listed by to have $34.28M of cap space. Applying the franchise tag on Geno leaves the team with less than $2M of available cap space, so coming to agreement on a multi-year deal would allow for a lower first year cap hit and give the team the space and flexibility it needs.

Thus, looking at what it would cost the Seahawks to keep Smith using a series of franchise tags as one-year contracts, here are the tag amounts by season:

  • 2023: $32.5M
  • 2024: $39M (120% of 2023 salary)
  • 2025: $56.16M

That process gives both sides the starting point for negotiations on a two year deal, which would be the $35.75M average of two tags. Obviously, the team is extremely to pay Smith $56M in 2025, so in order to gain the flexibility that comes with a multi-year deal, they’d likely have to bump the average annual salary up from $35.75M.

That puts the ballpark for deal longer than two years in the high thirties, or somewhere no less than the $115M to $120M range for a three-year contract and somewhere in the ballpark of $150M on a four-year deal.

Comparable Contract Method

Contracts in the NFL are not overly complex. They tend to mirror the contracts of other players of similar age, experience and skill in terms of length and dollar amounts. So, what one would look for is a contract for a player in their early thirties who produced an outlier season relative to the rest of their career and then adjust that contract for the current salary cap.

Luckily, there is a very similar example that is available, and fans can attempt to figure out which of the following statlines is that of Ryan Tannehill’s age 31 season and which is Geno Smith’s age 32 season:

  • 70.3% completion, 7.7% TD rate, 2.1% INT rate, 64.2 QBR, 9.8% sack rate
  • 69.8% completion, 5.2% TD rate, 1.9% INT rate, 61.1 QBR, 7.4% sack rate

Those are close enough for the comparable contract method, so it becomes a matter of looking at the four-year, $118M contract Tannehill received from the Tennessee Titans after posting those numbers.

Ryan Tannehill contract breakdown (prior to 2021 modification for cap purposes)

Tannehill Season Cap Hit Cap Amount Percentage of Cap
Tannehill Season Cap Hit Cap Amount Percentage of Cap
Year 1 2020 $22,500,000 $220,588,235 10.20%
Year 2 2021 $29,500,000 $191,379,310 15.41%
Year 3 2022 $34,000,000 $210,928,962 16.12%
Year 4 2023 $32,000,000 $227,329,193 14.08%

Now, taking thoses percentage of cap numbers and applying them to the projected salary cap for the next four years yields the following numbers.

Percentage of cap from Tannehill contract applied to projected 2023-2026 salary caps

Season Cap Amount Percentage of Cap Amount
Season Cap Amount Percentage of Cap Amount
2023 $225,000,000 10.20% $22,950,000
2024 $256,000,000 15.41% $39,460,901
2025 $282,000,000 16.12% $45,456,062
2026 $308,000,000 14.08% $43,355,628
N/A N/A Total $151,222,591

Therefore, this methodology yields a projection for a four-year contract somewhere in the ballpark of $150M, just as the franchise tag methodology did.

Simply put, that’s the ballpark of what Smith should reasonably expect to get paid on his next contract. Certainly he could opt to take less, but he could also demand more. He holds the leverage in the situation because he can afford to be patient. The team does not have that luxury, as it has a roster it needs to build, something that will be hindered if Smith is taking up $32.5M of cap space on the franchise tag.

For now, though, fans can sit back and enjoy the final few weeks of the playoffs.