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Commentary: Three thoughts on Seahawks’ new deal with Geno Smith

March 7, 2023 Updated Tue., March 7, 2023 at 5:44 p.m.

Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith completed 24 of 30 passes for 197 yards and no touchdowns when San Francisco defeated Seattle 27-7 on Sept. 18 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California.  (Tribune News Service)
Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith completed 24 of 30 passes for 197 yards and no touchdowns when San Francisco defeated Seattle 27-7 on Sept. 18 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. (Tribune News Service)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – First, the Seahawks gave him a chance. Then, the fans gave him some chants.

And now one of the NFL’s all-time comeback stories has resulted in Geno Smith coming back to Seattle.

What once seemed impossible became something inevitable over the past few months, as Smith’s stunning season practically obligated the Seahawks to agree with him to a lucrative contract. And Monday, the reported details of said contract revealed that Smith could earn up to $105 million over the next three years, including $52 million in the first calendar year.

Heartwarming story from a human-interest standpoint. But is it a practical move from an organizational standpoint? Here are three thoughts.

It’s a great day for a class act

Unless their team is suiting up against him that week, it’s hard to think many people root against Smith. He consistently is one of the more humble, genuine and engaging athletes in professional sports – traits that were highlighted over the past year or so.

Maybe the more endearing aspects of his personality are accentuated when juxtaposed with predecessor Russell Wilson, who often came off as programmed or manufactured. But that comparison aside, there wasn’t a moment this season in which Smith seemed anything but grateful and sincere.

His, “They wrote me off, I ain’t write back, though” quip after the Seahawks’ Week 1 win over Denver charmed the country. So did his response to a question about his seven years as a backup, when he said, “My tough times would be a dream to someone else.”

None of this felt contrived. He earned his spot as a fan favorite with both his play and character. Hard to feel anything but happiness for a man who, at 32, is set to sign a contract that could pay him six times that of his career earnings to date.

Great move for Seahawks? That’s TBD

As of this writing, it’s unclear how much of this deal is guaranteed and how it affects the salary cap. Seahawks general manager John Schneider is generally shrewd about giving the front office financial flexibility, and it’s doubtful the Seahawks would agree to a contract that significantly hamstrung their ability to add impactful talent.

But regardless of the details that come to light, this is a lot of money for a 10-year veteran who has had just one truly productive season. I’ll be the first to say that I was skeptical whether Smith proved himself to be a top-tier quarterback. He didn’t stand out in the second half of the season, as Seattle fell from 6-3 to 7-8 before winning the final two games of the regular season, dropping games to the sub-. 500 Bucs, Panthers and Raiders along the way.

Over the past several years, teams that make deep playoff runs usually do so with a top-three quarterback (see: Patrick Mahomes, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady), or they have a standout QB on a rookie deal (Jalen Hurts, Joe Burrow.)

Smith isn’t a top-three or even top-five QB. But as Schneider said at the combine last week, “(Quarterbacks) don’t grow on trees.” The Seahawks had a chance to lock the 2022 completion-percentage leader up long term, and they took it. Hard to fault them.

Seattle may still draft a QB this April

Three years isn’t a long time – and it’s possible the Seahawks could abandon Smith after Year two without incurring a financial penalty. And given Schneider’s quote above, selecting a quarterback with the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft (assuming no trading up is involved) remains a possibility for Seattle – as is selecting a lower-profile quarterback in the later rounds.

Smith isn’t Hurts or Burrow in the sense that those players’ teams are (likely) envisioning a decade-plus marriage with said youngsters. Smith will be 33 next season, and in a league in which franchises are always thinking ahead, his eventual successor could join him this spring.

Doubtful that Smith would be too upset about this if it happened, either. A) He is inking a deal that will pay him far more than he made over his first 10 years in the league combined. And, B) He’s a competitor. If there is any doubt about whether he is the right man for the job, he’d be keen on silencing that.

Big contracts are always gambles – particularly when they involve one-season wonders. But no matter how you feel about the team’s financial commitment, you have to feel happy for Smith.

The man earned his payday – and earned this city’s fandom, too.

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