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Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks pre-draft position overview: Will they draft a quarterback?

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith throws a pass during a 2023 game at Lumen Field.  (Tribune News Service)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

Do the Seahawks really think Geno Smith has a few more years left in him beyond 2024?

Do they really think Sam Howell is a viable candidate as a long-term QB of the future?

Those questions linger as the 2024 draft nears.

Holding the 16th pick, the Seahawks could be in position to take one of the six QBs who analysts generally think are worthy of a first-round pick — notably, former Husky standout Michael Penix Jr.

But having Smith under contract for two more years and having just acquired Howell — who is four months younger than Penix — do the Seahawks really need a quarterback?

Or does need matter?

John Schneider, now carrying the title of president of football operations, has said that ideally the Seahawks might have taken a few more quarterbacks over the last few years than they have — just two since 2010 — because of the value of the position.

Would that value, which maybe wouldn’t become apparent for a few years, supersede adding someone at another position who can help immediately?

As we conclude our pre-draft preview of the Seahawks position groups, let’s look at the quarterback position.

Current projected depth chart

Starter: Geno Smith. In just two seasons as a starter Smith is already sixth in franchise history in passing yards and needs just 454 yards to move into fifth (he’d need more than 11,000 to move any farther up the list). Smith’s 55 TD passes are fifth and his passer rating of 97.3 trails only Russell Wilson’s 101.8 of anyone who has thrown enough passes to qualify. The team reworked his deal to assure he’s the starter in 2024. But he has no guaranteed money in 2025 and a $38.5 million cap hit, so each side may have some decisions to make again after this season.

Backups: Sam Howell. That Howell already has 18 NFL starts at an age when some are just entering the draft (he is also six months younger than Oregon’s Bo Nix) are among the factors that made him attractive to the Seahawks. He has two years left on his rookie contract at the fifth-round bargain rate of a combined $2.085 million.

Draft need, 1-10: 5.

Schneider/Carroll draft history

Quarterbacks drafted (listed by draft order): Russell Wilson (75, 2012); Alex McGough (220, 2018).

Best pick: Regardless of how the relationship ended, the selection of Wilson will reside at the top of the franchise’s best draft picks for as long as the Seahawks exist.

One regret: While Schneider has said he regrets not taking more QBs along the way, it never really made sense in the Wilson years to spend much draft capital on one. And so far, there’s nothing to second guess that they opted for players at other positions with their high picks the last two years — remember when everyone was mad they didn’t take Malik Willis in 2022? — other than wishing they had the clairvoyance to take Brock Purdy. The best QBs from last year’s class were gone by the time Seattle picked.

Draft overview

Known visitors: The Seahawks reportedly had three QBs in for the 30 visits teams can conduct with potential draftees — Nix, Spencer Rattler of South Carolina and John Rhys Plumlee of Central Florida.

Nix is one of the draft’s bigger wild cards, with some thinking he could go in the first round and others thinking he could fall to the second day. Nix was undeniably productive at Oregon but some question his ability to adjust to more traditional NFL offenses.

That the Seahawks had him in shows there’s interest. But they might be doing their due diligence in case Nix falls and there’s a way to get him at some point between 16 and 81 — their first two picks.

Rattler has a reputation for erratic play, but calmed that down some after transferring to South Carolina after three years at Oklahoma. He is generally projected as being available with the Seahawks’ second pick at 81, and they might be even more intrigued if he were to fall further.

Plumlee, listed at 6-foot, 200 pounds, projects as a late-round pick or as an undrafted free agent.

Local ties: Penix entered the draft process garnering as much debate as anyone at any position about his value, in large part because of the four season-ending injuries he suffered in college.

The Seahawks’ new OC Ryan Grubb obviously knows as much about Penix as anyone working in the NFL, so information won’t be the issue.

Others to watch: The Seahawks met with Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, who played there one season when Mike Macdonald was the defensive coordinator, at the combine. McCarthy is widely expected to be gone by the time they draft.

They also met with Michael Pratt of Tulane, who could be available at 81 or for the Seahawks’ next few picks (102 and 118). He has good size at 6-3, 220 and a solid 49-10 touchdown-to-interception rate the last two years.

Some have mocked Tennessee’s Joe Milton and Florida State’s Jordan Travis to the Seahawks in later rounds.

Milton began his career with three years at Michigan from 2018-21 (before Macdonald arrived for his one season there in 2021) before transferring to Tennessee. The 6-5, 235-pounder is undeniably physically gifted but some question his readiness for the NFL.

Of those who figure to be available in the later rounds of the draft, Travis may most resemble the gamble the Seahawks took on Wilson in 2012.

Travis led Florida State to a 21-3 record the last two seasons with a 44-to-7 TD-to-interception ratio, and also ran for 1,950 yards and 31 touchdowns in his college career.

His relative lack of size (6-1, 212) is among the reasons he’s expected to fall to the third day.

This one line from his Pro Football Focus scouting report might make him the kind of QB the Seahawks could try to get in the draft: “He is a developmental quarterback who will be a fan favorite no matter where he goes (likely on Day 3).”

The final analysis: The Seahawks are sure to add a quarterback, and maybe two, to their roster by the time draft weekend ends, be it with a pick or as a free-agent signee. One reason for the Howell trade was to give them flexibility — and two QBs on the roster — to not be forced to add one with a pick in the draft.

The Seahawks appear to be positioning themselves to be able to leap if a QB falls in their lap at a spot where it makes sense but also to go without one if nothing materializes.

There are conflicting national reports the last few days, with one from stating “there’s some belief in league circles” the Seahawks are hoping to get Penix at 16, and one from ESPN stating the addition of Howell makes it more likely they’ll again bypass taking a QB.

We’ll soon find out.