Is Geno Smith part of the Seattle Seahawks’ future?

Is Geno Smith part of the Seattle Seahawks’ future?

8:57 PM ET

Brady HendersonESPN

SEATTLE — After the Seahawks kept their playoff hopes alive with an overtime win over the Los Angeles Rams in Week 18, none of them headed into Sunday night’s game with more on the line than Geno Smith.

The quarterback had a $1 million incentive contract riding the Seahawks making the postseason. He won it when the Detroit Lions upset the Green Bay Packers, securing Seattle’s spot as the seventh seed in the NFC.

Saturday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium gives Smith a chance to add some playoff production to his resume before the much bigger payday that awaits him this offseason as a free agent pending — whether his next contract comes from the Seahawks or someone else.

Typically, there aren’t many questions about a quarterback’s future with his team when he makes the Pro Bowl and the playoffs in the same season as Smith, but this situation is not so straightforward.

Consider where each party will be coming from. Editor’s Picks

2 Connected

Smith, who went from backup for the past seven years to starting first in 2022, just set several franchise single-season passing records. Even with some shaky performances, he’s easily been one of the NFL’s top 10 quarterbacks based on every relevant metric. He’s also been the most underpaid, playing on a one-year deal that has a base value of $3.5 million.

Smith has yet to win a big contract through his first 10 seasons in the NFL and is finally positioned to do so, which could tempt him to test free agency.

“I’m focused on football right now, but the thing is, it’s a business,” Smith said Sunday when asked if he wants to go on the market. “Football is a business. A lot of people have a lot of decisions to make, and that’s where I’ll leave it. I feel good about where I stand with this organization and my teammates and everybody else, but it’s always a business. First. So that’s how I look at it. I understand that, and I have to handle my business as well.”

The Seahawks, meanwhile, no doubt want to re-sign their Pro Bowl quarterback, but they have an offensive system they believe is QB-friendly. They also believe there are potentially viable alternatives to more affordable contracts if Smith’s asking price becomes too high for their liking.

The Russell Wilson trade has set them up with a load of draft capital, including the fifth overall pick and three of the top 40 selections. He also brought back Drew Lock, who was widely assumed to be their starter in 2022 before Smith beat him out. The Seahawks viewed the 26-year-old Lock as a key piece of the Wilson trade and still believe he is a rookie-caliber quarterback, though he is set to become a free agent like Smith.

Not surprisingly, Carroll’s response was laced with uncertainty when he was asked Sunday how Smith’s play affects his view of the Seahawks’ quarterback situation going forward. It also included a clear implication that Smith’s success — going from a longtime backup to a Pro Bowler — shows how the Seahawks’ scheme and coaching can put quarterbacks in position to thrive. In their eyes, that same thinking may help explain how Wilson has faltered in his debut season with Denver after compiling a Hall of Fame resume during his decade in Seattle. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith set franchise records for completions (399), yards (4,282) and completion rate (69.8%) this season. Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

“Well, we’ve been working to,” Carroll said, referring to how Smith and Lock are on expiring contracts, “but our system is really good. The system is really good, what we’re asking these guys make you.”

Smith put together one of the best seasons in Seahawks history. He set franchise records for completions (399), yards (4,282) and completion rate (69.8%), matching the marks Wilson set during 16-game seasons. With 30 touchdown passes, he joined Wilson and Dave Krieg as the only Seahawks quarterbacks to reach that mark.

But much of the brilliant play that defined Smith’s first three months has given way to some uneven performances of late, with Smith at one point admitting to being too aggressive. He has thrown eight touchdowns and five interceptions over the past five weeks, including two picks — and nearly a third — on Sunday against the Rams.

Still, Smith rallied the Seahawks in the second half with a touchdown pass and two late field goals, including the game-winner in overtime. He also moved Seattle into field goal range for what would have been the game-winner at the end of regulation had Jason Myers not missed a 46-yard field goal.

Even with his recent dip in production, Smith finished the regular season ranked sixth in Total QBR (61.1), first in completion rate, eighth in passing yards and 10th in punt ratio to the break (30-11). He’s been the league’s most accurate quarterback based on completion percentage over expectation and adjusted completion rate, and he’s also proven to be an effective rusher, ranking eighth among QBs in rushing yards ( 366). He was the only quarterback to play every snap for his team this season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. NFL Nation’s Best

• Strong initial grade of steel
• Cardinals owner Bidwill offseason
• What’s next for the Tennessee Titans?
• Forward Offseason Questions
• Panthers owner needs ‘unbelievable’ HC hire

“I think I’ve definitely done some things that are really good, and then knowing myself, whenever the offseason comes — hopefully, a long time from now — but I’m going to be very tough with myself for some decisions I made and things I did that weren’t great,” Smith said. “So obviously it’s good to lead the team and play 17 games. That was my main goal is to lead these guys and play 17 games. I knew what I could do on the field, but I know I can be even better. So that’s what I’m focused on now.”

Smith’s $3.5 million base contract put him in a tie with backups Joe Flacco and Case Keenum for the 36th-highest among quarterbacks based on annual average, according to Smith earned another $3.5 million in incentives — the maximum his contract included — by making the Pro Bowl and throwing at least 20 touchdown passes ($500,000), throwing for at least 4,000 yards ($1 million) and playing at least 85% of the offensive snaps, also making the playoffs ($2 million).

Including those incentives, lists Smith’s career earnings over 10 seasons at about $17.5 million, not much by quarterback standards.

“I mean, he better be back,” receiver Tyler Lockett said Sunday when asked about Smith’s uncertain future. “Obviously, I want the best for him. … But he’s played phenomenal. He’s put himself in a great position. I’m just thankful he got his opportunity. He took it. He paid a lot. He was able to go out there and he broke some records today. It’s just great for him, man. He’s a great person, great friend.”

Now, Smith has one more chance to prove himself, though it won’t be easy against the 49ers and a No. 1-ranked defense. 1 that he smothered in both of San Francisco’s wins over the Seahawks this season.

Smith and Seattle’s offense were held hitless in Week 2 at Levi’s Stadium, but Carroll saw enough in that game and the opener to start loosening up on Smith, setting the wheels in motion for his breakout and the day payment that will follow.

It’s just a matter of whether the Seahawks or another team will give it to him.

“I think our quarterback position is great,” Carroll said, marveling at Smith’s completion rate and play this season. “But he’s going to be a free agent, so we’ve got work to do. We never got a chance to see Drew, but I’ve seen a lot of him, and I like what he does, too. So that I think our quarterback situation, if we can sign them, is a great situation going forward. We know what we have.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *