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Football is a business: Why it may not make sense to retain Geno Smith’s services in 2023

Is Geno too costly for the Seahawks?

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Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

Given the season that quarterback Geno Smith had in 2022, the Seattle Seahawks retaining his services in 2023 would seem to be a no-brainer.

  • Won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award
  • Named to the NFC Pro Bowl team
  • Set franchise record with 4,282 passing yards in a single season
  • Led the league in completion percentage
  • Was Top-10 league-wide in QBR, passer rating, and several other stats
  • Helped the Seahawks make the playoffs in what many considered a “rebuilding” year
  • Outperformed his predecessor by a an extremely wide margin
  • Earned every one of the incentives in his contract

The common belief is that Geno has earned a multi-year contract that will pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $30M to $40M per year for 3 or 4 years.

There’s also the option of using the franchise tag to retain his services for at least one more season.

Sadly . . .

The cost of the tag presents a problem since the Seahawks currently have less than the required $32,416,000 available on their 2023 salary cap.

The expected release of RG Gabe Jackson would get them close, but there would have to be at least one other move to clear space.

Several more moves would have to be made to (eventually) sign the 2023 draft class, and yet more moves would need to be made to sign and/or retain free agents.

Long story short, don’t expect the Seahawks to use the franchise tag to secure Geno Smith’s services for the 2023 season.

Okay, so that means a long-term deal is the better option, right?

Maybe not.

Football is a business after all, and that means that the numbers on Geno’s contract need to make sense for both the team and for Geno Smith (and his agent).

John Schneider is on record as saying the team wants to re-sign Geno but that there is a limit on how high they’re willing to go.

And therein lies the rub since I think there’s probably a difference of about $10M per season between what the Seahawks are willing to pay and what Geno Smith is (currently) willing to sign for.

Best guess:

  • Seahawks: $25M max.
  • Geno: $35M min.

Geno’s position is simple: STATS + awards/honors + a belief that Year 3 in Shane Waldron’s system will be better than Year 2.

The Seahawks position is largely driven by dollars and sense.

Let’s start with some historical precedence:

  • Pete Carroll and John Schneider have never spent more than $32,987,500 on the quarterback position in a single season (2021), and that’s for the starter and the backup.
  • The Seahawks spent $30,951,022 on quarterback contracts in 2022, including $26M for Russell Wilson to play for the Denver Broncos. Seattle’s two active quarterbacks in 2022 had a combined cap hit of $4,951,022.

Then there’s Seattle’s current draft capital and the fact that there are at least four quarterbacks with the potential to be the face of the franchise for the next decade.

  • The Seahawks could use the #5 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on a quarterback who could potentially start this season (ex. C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young) and that QB’s 2023 cap hit would be $6,183,723.
  • The Seahawks could move back from #5 (or up from #20) and draft a QB that would “redshirt” this season (i.e., Anthony Richardson or Will Levis) and save a million or two, maybe more (at #10, the 2023 cap hit would be $4,049,724).

Seattle also has a potential ace up their sleeve . . . Drew Lock.

  • It’s believed that John and Pete were insistent upon Lock being included in the Russell Wilson trade.
  • Lock has a year under his belt in Waldron’s system.
  • Pete Carroll considered Lock a legitimate option for QB1 when training camp started last year.
  • Re-signing Drew Lock might only cost 1/10th of what it would take to re-sign Geno Smith.

As cold and harsh as it might be, there is a compelling argument to be made that it makes more sense to let Geno Smith walk and spend the money he wants in other ways.

For example:

  • QB Drew Lock: est. $3.5M (one-year deal)
  • LB Leighton Vander Esch: est. $6.75M APY
  • EDGE Arden Key: est. $9.25M APY
  • OC Garrett Bradbury: est. $6.25M APY
  • IDL Sheldon Rankins: $6M APY
  • Total: $31.75M APY (and presumably less than that in 2023)

Note: Other than the estimate for Drew Lock, the contract APYs above come from PFF’s 2023 Top 100 Free Agents list.

Money and roster construction aside, there’s the question of whether Geno Smith will perform at the same level in 2023 as he did in 2022.

Some will (rightly) point to his second half performance and say that he regressed during the season while others will (rightly) counter that his season, as a whole, was among the best in Seahawks history.

Among the best in Seahawks history.

Could Geno Smith be better in 2023 than he was in 2022? Sure.

Will he be? That’s unknown.

And unpredictable.

Geno has all the confidence you’d expect heading into 2023 and JSPC want him to be their quarterback.

But at what cost?

At $3.5M, Geno’s 2022 season was one of the best bargains in the NFL (Jalen Hurts at $1,643,230 was undoubtedly #1).

At $7M, which is what he earned in 2022 with incentives, Geno was still one of the best bargains in the NFL (cap-wise, Justin Herbert came in just behind Geno with a 2022 cap hit of $7,248,751).

But at north of $30M, Geno would need to throw for 6,000+ yards, 60+ touchdowns, and lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2023 for him to considered anywhere close to “a bargain.”

Not that “bargain” is the goal.

It’s not.

The Super Bowl is the goal. Always has been, always will be.

Can Geno Smith, at $30M+, lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl? If John and Pete don’t believe the answer is, “Yes,” then the next question becomes, “Could a less expensive quarterback lead us to the Super Bowl?”

And if the answer regarding Geno is, “No,” . . .

Bottom line: Rolling the dice on Geno Smith will cost the Seahawks roughly 10x what it cost them to roll the same dice last year with no guarantee of similar returns. From a business perspective, a less expensive set of dice may be the better option.

Oh, and here’s a Fun Fact to close things out: No one has ever won the Comeback Player of the Year award in back-to-back seasons.