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Why Geno Smith’s new Seahawks deal is a rare win-win-win-win-win situation

The player, the locker room, the cap, the present, the future — none of them have to lose now

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

How can so many parties possibly win when news breaks of a nine-figure contract for a journeyman quarterback with one good season? Glad you asked.

First, foremost, and most plainly, Geno Smith’s new deal is a win for Geno Smith.

Before officially writing back to the league by signing his name on the dotted line, Smith had made a total of $17.5 million dollars. No, not in 2022, no, not in the 2020s — in his entire career to this point. Yes, the decimal point is in the right place.

His new contract’s rumored guarantees alone (which are subject to change as details become known but stand at $40 million after the most recent reports) would more than double his lifetime earnings.

There’s chatter that Geno took a hometown discount and some corresponding concern he fleeced the Seahawks, but in the end if he hits incentives he secured an AAV that places him in the company of veterans who’ve posted multiple good seasons without ever being elite. Kirk Cousins banked $36 million last year. Derek Carr just skimmed 4/150 from the Saints so he’s sitting at 37.5. Jared Goff, whose Lions scored more touchdowns than the Bills, scores a 33.5 AAV.

If Smith whiffs on most the incentives and/or a worse version of himself shows up, then he still makes more money than ever before, but also gets paid like the QBs a tier below.

Is Smith better than the Carr-Cousins-Goff Circle of Competency? Is he worse? Well, that’s the debate, because of his small sample size and age. Point is that’s his company now, financially. And good for him, goddammit.

Next, it’s also a win for the reborn Seahawks culture. The locker room is squarely behind the man who led them to a surprising 9-8 season and playoff berth when Vegas had unkindly set Seattle’s over/under at five and a half victories.

It’s not conjecture to say that the rest of the roster displays public support for Smith in a way they didn’t always do for his predecessor under center. Players like Geno more than Russ and that’s okay to say. For more supporting evidence, click on “The Other John” Gilbert’s roundup with teammate reaction.

Remember this picture? There’s a new vibe around here, and it revolves around the quarterback.

It would’ve been bad politics to lowball Smith or let him walk, only for someone to offer him roughly the same 3/105 compensation. It would’ve been risky to place a transition tag on him. The Seahawks went the route of rewarding a veteran who proved it on the field. That decision will play well within the V-Mac walls and in free agency.

Furthermore, it’s a win for the short term and long term prospects of the Seattle Seahawks football club, from the business side.

Two more wins really.

But before I elaborate, it’s time for the usual objections. Which are warranted. There’s a reason Smith didn’t score a 4-year, $160 million payday, and it’s because of an incomplete track record and some inconsistencies along the way in his one relevant full season. His oft-cited purported second-half slump is real, or fake, depending on what flavor of statistic you enjoy.

Maybe there’s a real downward trend that certain stats capture? Football Outsiders founder Aaron Schatz divided Smith’s season into thirds to tell a different story.

If you believe Smith peaked and is crashing back to earth, the contract indeed has a chance to be an overpay, albeit one with an easy out after 2024. Absent the very-worsest-case scenario, though, the move isn’t disastrous, crippling, desperate — pick your adjective. If conversely, you believe Smith will improve as the cap rises, the contract has a chance to be a significant steal.

It’s easy to get hung up on the initial $105 million headline and assume the Seahawks compromised their cap situation. Probably more accurate to view the deal as a 2/50 with a moderately affordable out after 2024. Unless the contract structure is way out of the box. the third year is there mostly for show and won’t contain much guaranteed.

There’s no world in which a two-year deal for a bridge quarterback ruinates a franchise. There are even several worlds in which the Seahawks still sign Bobby Wagner despite enriching Geno. Trading Noah Fant, releasing Shelby Harris. Cutting ties with Gabe Jackson — those are significant moves that free up more than $27 million in space. I love Harris, he brings the right stuff to a thin position group, but if you ask me to choose between him and Wagz...

And even if the contract morphs into a true 3/105, it’s because Smith balled out. Which — spoiler! — is also good for team business. Who wouldn’t pay QB 16 money for QB 8 performance?

Another way to interpret this as a short-term win is pretty straightforward: turning the reins over this fall to a rookie, Drew Lock, or hell forbid, Jimmy Garoppolo, probably would result in a less watchable 2023, with fewer... wins. More wins, more better.

Finally, it’s a win for roster construction flexibility, in the long term, through the draft. A three-year deal does not preclude spending some of the vast amounts of draft capital Seattle owns on a QB right away, this year, with the intent of developing him for as long as it takes. Yes, even if that means selecting Anthony Richardson at 1.5 or 1.7 or wherever so he can learn the game behind Geno for two seasons. Yes, even if it means taking someone like Hendon Hooker and his suspect medicals.

Let me state it more plainly.

Because Twitter is not a place where nuance thrives, Field Gulls will have to do. It’s true that Seattle is now officially on the clock for Smith’s replacement and should jump-start their search sooner rather than later. You don’t want to be waiving Geno and not have his replacement on the roster. So it’s time to start taking bites at the proverbial apple. But the contract’s three-year structure means that you could wait a year in the draft. Especially if the board goes to shit and doesn’t fall your way, or if you trade down, or if you just don’t care for the value of who’s available when you’re on the clock.

If this is the year to load up in the trenches, do it and table the QB search. I think that’s risky, but every football decision carries an element of risk. Makes things a little more fun, to be honest.

Conclusionally, there are now almost too many wins on the table to count.

And make no mistake — it’s easy to mess up your quarterback situation by overpaying, over-committing and over-drafting. Just ask the Jets, who’ve turned it into an art form. So it’s really frickin’ cool to see the Seahawks not box themselves into a salary cap problem, not close the door on developing a rookie, not alienate the locker room, not burn any bridges with their QB1, not set the market or find themselves feverishly reacting to it, and not speed-bump a promising rebuild by abandoning the leader of the offense who spearheaded their unexpected success.

They won. Everyone won. Forget win-win or win-win-win, this was a unicorn win-win-win-win-win outcome. Now, to be safe, they should go out and win a few more on the field.