For the uninitiated, “opportunity cost” is, in simple terms, what you’re giving up by choosing Alternative A - in this case, either re-signing or tagging Geno Smith - instead of choosing another alternative.
Before we look at the alternatives, let’s look at the expected cost for the Seattle Seahawks retaining the services of Geno Smith in 2023 (and potentially beyond).
Smith is Pro Football Focus’ #2 free agent and their projection for his next contract is 3 years, $105M ($35M APY) with $72.5M guaranteed at signing.
Using the franchise tag comes with a similar cost: 1-year, $32,416,000, fully guaranteed at signing.
Salary aside, there is a key difference between re-signing Geno Smith to a new contract or using the franchise tag to retain his services: If the Seahawks tag Geno, the full amount hits the cap instantly.
And therein lies the rub.
As things stand right now, the Seahawks have less than $25M in available cap space for the 2023 season.
Their rookie class, as currently projected (i.e., before John Schneider starts working the phones to improve his draft capital), will use up roughly 40% of that space ($9,665,340, to be exact).
Tagging Geno Smith
For simple numbers, let’s say the Seahawks need $17M to tag Geno Smith. How do they bridge that gap?
- Option 1: Releasing players (ex. Gabe Jackson)
- Option 2: Restructuring contracts (ex. Tyler Lockett, Quandre Diggs)
- Option 3: Both of the above
Can it be done? Yes.
Is it easy? Absolutely not.
Want to try it yourself? Be my guest.
Bottom line: The opportunity cost of tagging Geno Smith = current players (if you release anyone), future cap space (if you restructure existing contracts), and - perhaps most importantly - the players that you might have signed but end up not signing in free agency (more on this later).
Re-signing Geno Smith
Presumably, re-signing Geno to a negotiated contract would result in less opportunity cost. Right?
Yes and no.
Assuming the team could structure the contract in such a way as to make Geno’s 2023 cap hit less than $15M (which seems infinitely doable), there would be no need to release anyone or restructure any contracts.
At least not specifically in order to accommodate Geno’s contract.
Granted, the Seahawks would be pushing money into future years and increasing Geno’s cap hits in 2024 and beyond. That, however, is par for the course with NFL contracts since signing bonuses are routinely prorated over the life of the contract (or 5 years, whichever is shorter).
Free agency is where the opportunity cost of re-signing (or tagging) Geno really hits home because whether the Seahawks re-sign him or tag him, there will be a number of players the team might have signed, but were unable to sign, via free agency.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that re-signing Geno creates a cap hit between $12M and $14M, leaving the Seahawks between $1M and $3M of cap space after signing their rookie class.
Who do the Seahawks sign in free agency?
If there’s only $1M to $3M to play with, the answer is probably NO ONE since teams need to reserve some cap space for their practice squads and in-season replacements.
Opportunities in Free Agency
Here’s a bit of a taboo topic . . .
What if the Seahawk’s DON’T re-sign (or tag) Geno Smith?
What if Seattle’s brain trust (aka Pete Carroll and John Schneider) buck conventional wisdom (again) and roll with their 3rd different starter in the last 3 years?
Who do they sign in free agency if Geno is no longer in the equation?
One. A Quarterback.
Sure, the Seahawks could draft a QB with the #5 pick. They could trade up and grab one in the top 3. They could trade back and maybe get one of the consensus top-4 QBs in the 9-15 range. They could grab one on Day 2 or Day 3.
Here’s the thing though . . . they cannot go into the NFL Draft with zero quarterbacks on their roster. Doing so is tantamount to taking out an ad in the New York Times stating your intentions and (most) teams simply do not do anything remotely that stupid.
My guess is that the Seahawks would go with a low-cost, fringe-level starter - presumably either Drew Lock or someone like Gardner Minshew. Contract-wise, I think they’d offer Lock (or Minshew) the same deal that Geno agreed to last offseason: $3.5M with another $3.5M in incentives.
Running total = $3.5M
Two. A Center.
Theoretically, D-line is probably a higher priority, but with Austin Blythe having recently announced his retirement (and his having been a free agent prior to that), the only Center currently on Seattle’s roster is Joey Hunt.
For those who are uninspired by the idea of Joey Hunt snapping to ball to whoever is playing quarterback for the Seahawks, now is the time to skip ahead in the article.
PFF’s top-ranked free agent Center is Ethan Pocic.
Their projection is a 3-year, $21M contract ($7M APY) with $11M guaranteed.
The other 2 Centers on PFF’s top-100 free agents list are:
- Connor McGovern: 3 years, $22.5M ($7.5M APY) with $12.5M guaranteed
- Garrett Bradbury: 3 years, $18.75M ($6.25M APY) with $10M guaranteed
Running total = ~$9.75M to $11M
Three. Other players, presumably on defense.
At this point, the Seahawks have somewhere between $2M and $22M in terms of cap space, depending on whether you’re playing with the pool created to clear room to tag Geno ($32M) or the pool you save in 2023 by not re-signing him ($12M to $14M).
Who would YOU sign in free agency?
Here are some options from PFF’s Top 100 Free Agents list (in order or projected APY):
DL Javon Hargrave: PFF’s #3 free agent comes with a projected 3-year contract that pays him $55M ($18.33M APY) with $36M guaranteed
LB Tremaine Edmunds: #17 on PFF’s free agent list; 4 years, $70M ($17.5M APY), $42M guaranteed
CB Jamel Dean: #5 on PFF’s list; 4 years, $68M ($17M APY), $47.5M guaranteed
S Jessie Bates III: #4 on PFF’s list; 5 years, $75M ($15M APY), $40M guaranteed
IDL Dre’Mont Jones: #22 on PFF’s list; 4 years, $58M ($14.5M APY), $37.5M guaranteed
LB David Long: #26 on PFF’s list; 4 years, $55M ($13.75M APY), $33M guaranteed
IDL Zach Allen: #24 on PFF’s list; 3 years, $37.5M ($12.5M APY), $26M guaranteed
- EDGE Yannick Ngakoue: #60 on PFF’s list; 2 years, $25M ($12.5M APY), $20M guaranteed
CB James Bradberry: #15 on PFF’s list; 2 years, $24M ($12M APY), $16.5M guaranteed
EDGE Marcus Davenport: PFF’s top-ranked free agent edge rusher (#21 overall); 1 year, $12M, $10M guaranteed
S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: #25 on PFF’s list; 3 years, $34.5M ($11.5M APY), $23M guaranteed
LB Lavonte David: #6 on PFF’s list; 2 years, $22M ($11M APY), $15.25M guaranteed
- EDGE Samson Ebukam: #51 on PFF’s list; 3 years, $30.75M ($10.25M APY), $20M guaranteed
- EDGE Arden Key: #49 on PFF’s list; 2 years, $18.5M ($9.25M APY), $11.5M guaranteed
- CB Rock Ya-Sin: #41 on PFF’s list; 3 years, $27M ($9M APY), $17.5M guaranteed
- S Taylor Rapp: #61 on PFF’s list; 3 years, $24M ($8M APY), $15.5M guaranteed
- S Vonn Bell: #46 on PFF’s list; 3 years, $22M ($7.33M APY), $13.25M guaranteed
- LB Germaine Pratt: #52 on PFF’s list; 3 years, $24.75M ($8.25M APY), $14.75M guaranteed
- EDGE Jadeveon Clowney: this one-time Seahawk is PFF’s 2nd-ranked edge rusher (#31 overall) with a contract projection of 1 year, $8M with $7M guaranteed
- CB Marcus Peters: #54 on PFF’s list; 2 years, $14M ($7M APY), $8.5M guaranteed
- LB Leighton Vander Esch: #42 on PFF’s list; 3 years, $20.25M ($6.75M APY), $12M guaranteed
- S Marcus Epps: #96 on PFF’s list; 2 years, $13.5M ($6.75M APY), $7.5M guaranteed
- IDL Poona Ford: #94 on PFF’s list; 2 years, $12.5M ($6.25M APY), $7.5M guaranteed
- IDL Sheldon Rankins: #64 on PFF’s list; 2 years, $12M ($6M APY), $8M guaranteed
- LB Alex Singleton: this former-Seahawk is #78 on PFF’s list with a contract projection of 2 year, $10M ($5M APY) with $5.25M guaranteed
- EDGE Rasheem Green: another former-Seahawk lands at #86 on PFF’s list with a contract projection of 2 years, $10M ($5M APY) with $6.25M guaranteed
- EDGE Brandon Graham: #66 on PFF’s list; 1 year, $4.5M, $4.25M guaranteed
- EGE Melvin Ingram III: #68 on PFF’s list; 1 year, $4M, $3.5M guaranteed
- LB Azeez Al-Shaair: #87 on PFF’s list; 2 years, $8M ($4M APY), $4.25M guaranteed
Yes, that above list only includes defensive players.
Why? Because other than Center, I’m not expecting the Seahawks to target any top-100 free agents on offense if they end up letting Geno Smith walk.
You may have also noticed that a lot of the players are crossed off. That’s because history has shown that the current regime doesn’t target the “big name” free agents so we can probably (and actually did) cross off anyone in the Top 30.
That leaves us:
- Interior Defensive Linemen: Poona Ford ($6.25M APY) and Sheldon Rankins ($6M APY)
- EDGE Rushers: Yannick Ngakoue ($12.5M APY), Samson Ebukam ($10.25M APY), Arden Key ($9.25M APY), Jadeveon Clowney ($8M APY), Rasheem Green ($5M APY), Brandon Graham ($4.5M APY), and Melvin Ingram III ($4M APY)
- Linebackers: Germaine Pratt ($8.25M APY), Leighton Vander Esch ($6.75M APY), Alex Singleton ($5M APY), and Azeez Al-Shaair ($4M APY)
- Cornerbacks: Rock Ya-Sin ($9M APY) and Marcus Peters ($7M APY)
- Safeties: Taylor Rapp ($8M APY), Vonn Bell ($7.33M APY), and Marcus Epps ($6.75M APY)
So . . .
Who are you signing in free agency?
Theoretically, that’s a trick question because every public indication is that the Seahawks will re-sign (or tag) Geno Smith. Thus, whoever you chose / would have chosen to sign in free agency is the opportunity cost of re-signing (or tagging) Geno Smith.
Thus, the real question is whether or not re-signing (or tagging) Geno Smith is worth the cost - both the financial cost AND the opportunity cost?