With a three-year contract given to comeback player of the year Geno Smith, the Seattle Seahawks have their quarterback of the present.
The deal is so good for both sides that it also protects the future of both the player and the team.
Smith’s deal can be worth up to $105 million, with 40 million guaranteed. With a fully guaranteed base salary of $28 million for 2023, In one season, he will more than double the amount of money he has earned through the entire ten years of his NFL career. The contract minimizes the financial impact in future years for the Seahawks while still allowing Smith to get a big payday. Most “guaranteed” money in the NFL comes with significant air quotes around it, as teams can find many ways to get out from under those “guarantees.” Thus, Smith locking in the guaranteed money early in the contract means he will see that money. On the flip side, if most or all of the money is guaranteed in year one, it makes it easier for the Seahawks to move on before the end of the contract should Smith regress.
For the Seahawks, they have bought themselves flexibility. With Smith locked up through his age-35 season, the team could potentially draft his successor in this year’s draft, where they have a pair of first-round picks. Or they could take a flyer on a quarterback with a later pick to develop for the future. Or they could not take a quarterback at all and delay that decision for a future year while they reload in other areas. It also allows them another year to see if Smith can replicate his 2022 performance while giving them cap flexibility in 2024 and 2025 to continue building the team and filling holes.
For Smith, money in the bank now is worth more than any money in year two or three. He could have gambled on the Seahawks deciding to place a franchise tag on him should he not have signed the contract, which would have paid him in the neighborhood of $32 million this coming season. With repeated franchise tags, he certainly could have made more than the $105 million he signed for over three years, but nothing beyond that initial $32 million for this season would have been guaranteed.
The whole deal, as reported by ProFootball talk, is three years, $75 million base salary, with $30 million in incentives. The entirety of the first year of the contract is guaranteed, roughly half the second year, and essentially none of the third year. While not as staggeringly front-loaded as initial reports of $52 million in the first year suggested, it still ensures him a payday with more guarantees than going with the franchise tag. There is betting on yourself, and then there is looking in the mirror and realizing that after ten years in the league, you likely have one shot at a big payday and that it would be foolish to let your pride get in the way.
For the Seahawks, slapping the franchise tag on Smith would have answered their quarterback question for 2023 but would have removed their future flexibility. They almost certainly would have needed to take a quarterback in the first round in the upcoming draft and would likely have to go through a similar song and dance next offseason if Smith performed well this coming season. Instead, they eliminated the drama, got an essential piece of their team under contract, and have the flexibility to operate on their own timeline with limited financial commitments. The Seahawks may very well take a quarterback with an early pick in the April draft, but if they do, it will be because they want to, not because they need to.
Who knows if Smith can replicate his remarkable record-setting performance from 2022. Honestly, it doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme if he does. The man earned his money and is now set for life. For the Seahawks, the signing carries such little future risk that even if Smith comes crashing back to earth next year, they will be able to move on with relatively few consequences to future cap space.
Come what may next season, the deal between the Seahawks and Smith is a complete win-win on both sides, and Seahawks fans should be glad it got done. With the starting quarterback spot secure, at least for next season, the team can focus on continuing its reconstruction and building on their surprising playoff run from last year.
No matter how long Geno Smith stays as the Seahawks quarterback, he’s been well rewarded for his work to help set the team on an upward trajectory.
Both of those things should have Seahawks fans very excited for the future.