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Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks’ Geno Smith to stay on roster, guaranteeing $12.7 million base salary

Quarterback Geno Smith (7) throws the ball during a Seattle Seahawks game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Oct. 2, 2023, in East Rutherford, New Jersey.   (Tribune News Service)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Seattle Seahawks will keep quarterback Geno Smith on the roster through the end of the week, which will guarantee his $12.7 million base salary, a source confirmed to the Seattle Times.

ESPN reported Thursday that Smith had “been informed today” that he will remain on the roster and will collect the money.

Smith’s contract, signed last March, included a clause that said if he remains on the roster through Friday his base salary becomes guaranteed.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted in his report that the move does not guarantee that Smith will be the Seahawks’ quarterback in 2024. Keeping Smith and guaranteeing the salary means the team can still explore trade options over the next month.

“The Seahawks believed that, in today’s market, with salaries soaring for starting quarterbacks, the right decision was to pay the money, per sources,” Schefter wrote. “Now Geno Smith will represent a value to them – or any other team that decides to reach out to see if it can acquire Smith via trade. But Seattle now has locked in Smith, and Smith has locked in his $12.7 million.”

A source said that in Seattle’s eyes, there was no real decision to be made now.

But there could be one to make later.

Smith’s contract also includes a clause that says he will receive a $9.6 million bonus if he is on the roster through March 18.

That date is five days after the beginning of the new league year and the free-agent signing period, and after many trade options would likely be exhausted.

Smith remaining on the roster through March 18 would likely assure that he’s Seattle’s 2024 quarterback. At that point, Seattle would be committing to paying Smith $22.5 million in cash in 2024 in salary and bonus (including a $200,000 workout bonus), and he would count for $31.2 million against the salary cap.

But if Seattle can find a trade partner, the new team would take on Smith’s base salary and, assuming the trade would be made by March 18, the roster bonus.

The salary-cap ramifications in trading or cutting Smith before June 1 are the same. Seattle would take a $17.4 million dead-cap hit and save $13.8 million.

So in that sense, Thursday’s news changes little about Seattle’s commitment to Smith. It does, however, assure that Smith will receive the money whether he remains with the Seahawks or is traded.

The salary and bonus clauses were included in a three-year contract Smith signed last March and were designed to give the Seahawks some dates when they could get out of the deal, while also giving Smith some dates when he would be assured of payouts. Smith received $27.5 million in 2023 in combined salary and bonus.

Smith is one of four Seahawks who had similar clauses written into their contracts of either full or partial base salaries for 2024 that will become guaranteed if they are on the roster through Friday. The others are as follows:

• Wide receiver DK Metcalf ($13 million).

• Defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones ($7 million of $11 million).

• Kicker Jason Myers ($3.635 million).

A league source indicated the Seahawks are not expected to make any moves this week, meaning all would remain on the roster and earn those guarantees.

The Smith news broke as the Seahawks began an introductory news conference for their three new coordinators. That included offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb.

Asked about Smith, Grubb noted that the NFL is in something of a “dead period” right now, with players off until offseason programs begin in the spring.

But Grubb said he has had some conversations with Smith “just getting to know him as people. So no scheme or anything like that. But he’s great. He’s a competitor. He wants to be coached, he wants to be the best, it means a lot to him. Just hearing his story and his growth as a player and a person is inspiring.”

Grubb mentioned Smith leading the NFL in completion percentage in 2022, setting a team record of 69.8% and said that number “says a lot. … Ultimately, you need a guy who can lead, be smart, tough and dependable and make good decisions, and I think Geno is more than capable of doing that.”

Grubb, though, also volunteered a mention of backup quarterback Drew Lock, saying, “I’m really fired up and looking forward to coaching him and Drew both. They are both wonderful guys. They are competitors.”

Grubb mentioned having talked with Lock in recent days about the QB becoming a new father – Lock’s son was born last month.

“Was just counseling him through being a new dad with no sleep,” Grubb said of Lock, who is in Florida. “So he’s doing great.”

Lock, however, can be an unrestricted free agent March 13 and said after the season that playing time will be a priority for him this year.

Lock re-signed with the Seahawks last March on a one-year, $4 million deal shortly after Smith signed a three-year contract. Lock said he was content then to return as a backup, in part because his market was impacted by him not playing in 2022.

But in January, Lock indicated that playing time will be at the top of his priorities this year, especially after having received a chance to play in 2023. He led Seattle to a memorable last-minute win over the Eagles on “Monday Night Football,” which he hoped reopened some eyes around the league about his ability.

“We don’t play football to not play,” Lock said in January. “So playing ball is something that every quarterback, as long as you get a chance in this league, you are going to be fighting for that chance to get out on that field, and that’s No. 1.”

The Seahawks recommitting to Smith for now could influence Lock’s decision. Or, as the ESPN report stated, Lock is in Seattle’s plans if the team trades Smith.

Smith, though, became $12.7 million richer Thursday, continuing his unlikely story from seeming career backup to regaining a starting job after seven years on the bench.

Smith seemed to allude to that with a post on X stating “Thank you Lord” just a few minutes before the news broke. Smith followed up saying, “I thank the Lord every day btw.” Smith then posted videos of him working out with the caption “Some how. Some way.”

Smith knows he’ll get paid somewhere in 2024. Whether that’s Seattle remains to be seen.