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Checking in on Geno Smith’s progress toward his 2023 incentives

Geno can earn up to $15M in incentives this year, but will he?

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

On Tuesday, I stated that Geno Smith’s career-best game vs. Washington doesn’t change the fact that he isn’t “the one” for the Seattle Seahawks.

The follow-up article dug into what it would cost the Seahawks to part ways with Geno Smith after the 2023 season.

Today, we’re looking at how the cost of Geno’s contract could go UP.

Potentially, by as much as 40%.

A quick recap

When we first heard about Geno’s new contract, it was reported as a 3-year, $105M deal. However, as details trickled out, it turned into a 3-year, $75M deal.

So which one is it?


But also neither . . . probably.

At face value, Geno’s contract pays him $75M for the 2023, 2024, and 2025 seasons.

However . . .

The Seahawks have an “out” after the 2023 season - which is one of the reasons Geno’s contract is viewed as “team friendly.”

Were the Seahawks to decide to part ways with Geno after this season - and I mean right after this season, Geno’s 3-year, $75M contract would effectively become a 1-year, $27.5M contract.

Or not.

Depending on when and how the Seahawks decided to part ways with Geno, the cost of Geno’s 2023 season could balloon to as much as $49.8M.

Not so team friendly now, is it?

It doesn’t end there though, because those might not be the final numbers.

That’s right . . .

Geno has incentives!

Remember the $30M difference between the initial reports about Geno’s contract (3/$105M) and the final reports about it being a 3-year, $75M deal?

The difference was the incentives.

Long story short, Geno can earn up to $15M in incentives this year and another $15M in incentives next year.

And we’re out!

. . .

. .



Y’all know that this is a long story long sort of article so let’s dig into Geno’s incentives and see what’s going on.


The first thing to note is that the incentives are set up as a sort of “prove it” deal for Geno Smith: Prove that your 2022 performance wasn’t a fluke . . . DO IT AGAIN!

And then . . . do it again again (in 2024).

Here’s the list:

  1. $2M for recording more than 4,282 passing yards
  2. $2M for throwing more than 30 touchdowns
  3. $2M for a completion percentage higher than 69.755%
  4. $2M for a passer rating higher than 100.874
  5. $2M for 10 wins or the Seahawks make the playoffs with Geno playing 80% of the snaps

Note: Sites like Spotrac show the performance levels which must be exceeded in order for the incentives to be earned. If Smith delivers numbers that match exactly the numbers listed, he does not earn the incentives because the language in his contract requires that he must exceed those thresholds.

In addition to those five incentives, there’s a “bonus” incentive in Geno’s contract that gives him another $5M if he hits all five of them.

Note: For those that may not recall, here’s Geno’s stat line from last season: 399 of 572 (69.8%) for 4,282 yards with 30 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a passer rating of 100.9.

Now, here’s the important part . . .

Geno’s incentives aren’t “incentives” in the traditional sense - i.e., he doesn’t get a check at the end of the season if he hits one, two, three, four, or all five of them.

No, Geno’s incentives are actually “escalators” that increase his roster bonus the following season.

Right now, the roster bonus for 2024 is $9.6M, and the roster bonus for 2024 is $10M. If Geno hits the benchmarks for his incentives, those roster bonuses could jump as high as $24.6M and $25M, respectively.

And here’s the craziest part . . .

Let’s say Geno hits all 5 incentives this season and ends up bumping his 2024 paycheck by $15M . . .

If the team were to release Geno before his roster bonus is due (i.e., prior to the fifth day of the new league year / before March 18th, 2024) . . . the Seahawks would be off the hook for the incentives - even though Geno earned them.

Similarly, if the Seahawks were to trade Geno (prior to the fifth day of the new league year), the incentives would transfer to the acquiring team (unless otherwise negotiated as part of the trade).

Talk about having your cake and eating it too.


Geno’s pace toward earning his incentives

Now that we know what the incentives are, let’s look at how Geno is doing in regard to earning them . . .

Incentive No. 1: Passing Yards

Through the first nine games of the season, Geno Smith has 2,171 passing yards which gives him an average of 241.2 yards per game.

At his current pace, Geno would end the season a little bit short of the goal.

How short?

About 182 yards.

Obviously that can change.

As an example, prior to last Sunday’s game, Geno was averaging 225.3 yards per game and was on pace to finish the season 453 yards short of the goal. Then he went out and threw for a career-high 369 yards.


Last season, Geno averaged 251.9 yards per game.

Interestingly, during the first half of the 2022 season, when Geno was generating some MVP buzz, his average game was right around where it is now: 240.5 yards through eight games; 244.3 through nine.

Over the last eight games of the 2022 season, he averaged 260.4 yards per game

Geno’s best stretch of eight games during the 2022 season was from Week 8 to Week 16 when he averaged 271.8 yards per game.

Amusingly, Mr. Smith’s lowest totals over that stretch were in Week 8 (212 yards) and Week 16 (215).

Those six games in between though . . . 275, 275, 328, 367, 264, and 238.

I mention that 8-game stretch because in order to hit the passing yards incentive, Geno will need to average 263.9 yards per game over the final eight weeks of the season.

Obviously, that’s doable.

It is, however, far from guaranteed.


Incentive No. 2: Passing Touchdowns

Geno has thrown 11 touchdowns in the first 9 games. That’s an average of 1.2 per game. To hit this incentive, Geno will need to throw 19 touchdown passes in the final eight games, an average of 2.4 per game.

Can Geno double his touchdown rate over the back half of the season? Sure.

But, like the passing yards, it’s far from guaranteed.


Incentive No. 3: Completion Percentage

Geno led the league in completion percentage last season so this incentive was always sort of a stretch goal (in my opinion).

This year, through nine games, he’s 21st with a completion percentage of 65.3.

Theoretically, it’s possible for Geno to bump his completion percentage by 4.5 points over the final 8 weeks of the season.

But . . .

Rough numbers:

  • Geno has averaged 33.3 passes per game so far this year
  • Maintaining that pace would give him 567 attempts for the season (5 fewer than 2022)
  • 69.8% of 567 is 396
  • Geno currently has 196 completions which means he’d need 200 more

Bottom line: Geno would need to complete roughly 74.9% of his passes (200/267) over the final eight weeks to hit this incentive.


Incentive No. 4: Passer Rating

Geno’s 100.9 passer rating was tied for No. 6 in the league last year; this year, he’s No. 19 with a passer rating of 89.2.

Also, over the first nine games, Geno has thrown seven interceptions.

Why do I mention this?

Because IF Geno Smith throws fewer than five interceptions over the final eight weeks AND he earns Incentive Nos. 1, 2, and 3, he could, theoretically, raise his passer rating to 100.9 (or higher).

Given Geno’s performance thus far this season . . . ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Note: There are probably a bazillion ways for Geno to raise his quarterback rating to the requisite level; the scenario I laid out is just one of them - and a very lucrative one at that.


Incentive No. 5: Quarterback “Wins”

In theory, this is probably the easiest incentive for Geno to earn because (a) the team is 6-3 after their first nine games, and (b) even if Geno plays poorly, the Seahawks could still win 9+ games.

Really, all Geno needs to do to earn this incentive is stay healthy (knock on wood!) and hope that the Seahawks don’t lose more than five of their final eight games (knock on a whole damn forest!).

I can hear the objections now.

And, yes, it’s true that the Seahawks’ schedule over the final two months is pretty darn daunting given that five of their eight remaining games are on the road, including three over the next four weeks.

It IS possible for Seattle to get to 9 wins though. Or more.

And, yes, I’m ignoring who the opponents are because we all know about “the gauntlet” at this point.


Incentive No. 6: BONUS

Could Geno earn all five of his performance-based incentives this year? Yes.

Is it likely? I would say, “No.”

Honestly, I will be surprised if he earns two of the five.

Final Thought

Y’all might have noticed that I’ve been a bit skeptical about Geno Smith this week.

It’s not just him that I’m skeptical about.

But Geno stands up at the podium each week, win or lose, and says, “It’s on me. I have to do better.”

This week, I chose to agree.

. . .

Go Hawks!