Making Sense Of The Geno Smith Contract With The Seahawks

Last week, it was announced that Geno Smith signed a 3-year extension for $105 million. But, we all knew that was the phony number that’s never likely to be administered. We then discovered it was something closer to 3 years, $75 million, with $30 million in incentives. But, that still didn’t paint the full picture. For reasons that boggle the mind, it took a while to finally get that full picture, but here we now are.

We’re looking at a $26.1 million signing bonus (spread out over three seasons, that’s $8.7 million per year, for cap purposes) and a $1.2 million base salary and a $200,000 workout bonus. So, in total, Geno Smith is set to earn $27.5 million in 2023, which is a fantastic chunk of change. For cap purposes, though, it’s only a $10.1 million hit, which should help us greatly when it comes to signing our draft picks, and maybe dipping our toes into free agency.

There are also incentives, which we’ll get into later. But, what needs to be understood is the fact that this is effectively a 1-year deal. If Geno Smith bottoms out, or if we draft someone who looks to be the second-coming of Patrick Mahomes, we can cut him after this season (as long as it’s before the 5th league day of the 2024 season) with a $17.4 million cap hit (that is assuming, of course, that he doesn’t suffer a severe season-ending injury in 2023, as his base salary next year becomes fully guaranteed for injury).

Here’s how the rest of the contract shakes out. While there are certainly protections for the team against Geno being a one-hit wonder, it’s truly a deal constructed to allow Geno to bet on himself.

For starters, his base salary in 2024 jumps to $12.7 million; however, he will also earn $9.6 million in a roster bonus, along with his $200,000 in a workout bonus. That brings his cap hit for next year to $31.2 million (very much in line with a top quarterback, which is how he played in 2022, and presumably how he will need to play in 2023 to see a 2024), and that doesn’t even get into the incentives (again, we’re getting into that later).

In 2025, his base salary will be $14.8 million, but he would also get a roster bonus of $10 million, along with $200,000 for working out, to make his cap hit $33.7 million. So, if he maintains his 2022 level of play through 2023 and 2024, he’ll again be paid like a top quarterback. Not THE top quarterback, but one of them.

The extremely interesting part of this deal is the incentives I’ve been teasing. He’s got a number of escalators – based on his ability to surpass his 2022 numbers in five categories – that could REALLY make him a wealthy man. They are:

  • Total Passing Yards (4,282)
  • Total Passing Touchdowns (30)
  • Completion Percentage (69.8%)
  • Passer Rating (100.9)
  • Team Wins (9)

He gets $2 million per item on this list that he exceeds. My understanding of how it works with wins is he needs to play 80% of the time and lead the Seahawks to either 10+ wins or the playoffs again. If we make the playoffs as a 9-8 team or an 8-9 team, I’m assuming the Seahawks won’t be sticklers here. And, if he exceeds all five, there’s an additional bonus of $5 million earned. Meaning, he could add $15 million to those previously-outlined numbers above. So, if he does that in 2023 – and he’s still on the roster 5 days into the 2024 league year – he’ll be worth a cap hit of $46.2 million.

And then, if he does it agin in 2024, he’ll be worth a cap hit of $48.7 million. THIS puts him in that top tier of quarterback. This’ll be pretty close to what the very best quarterbacks are earning.

Which, at first blush, leads me to wonder: are his numbers in 2022 really so elite? I’ll buy the completion percentage and passer rating; that’s really great. But, we see guys throw 4,300+ yards all the time. 30 touchdowns isn’t anything all that impressive. And 10 wins is fine, but 14 wins are better. I could see Geno Smith potentially surpassing all of those numbers again in 2023. But, what I can’t see is him blowing those numbers away. I think he’ll be BARELY eking past some (or all) of them. Which makes him just an okay quarterback making top-of-the-market dollars.

I don’t want to piss and moan too much, because there’s a cynical part of me that expects all of this to be moot. I think the odds of him beating all five of those incentives are remote. He might get to three or four. But, even less likely is him returning to the Seahawks on a $37+ or $39+ million cap hit. Especially if one of those incentives he fails at is wins/making the playoffs. Of course, it’ll require us to have a viable younger option, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

That all being said, I like this contract. I like having a short-term out. We properly compensated the man for a job well done in 2022, but we didn’t negotiate against ourselves and overly-inflate the guaranteed dollars. I might have other opinions this time next year, if we opt to keep him around. But, for now, it really seems like we have just one more year of this bridge quarterback before we move onto our next franchise guy.

The best part seems to be the fact that we’ll be drafting a guy. Maybe not at the #5 pick. With the Panthers trading up from 9 to 1 with the Bears, that all but assures three of the top four picks will be quarterbacks (Carolina, Houston, and Indy), and it’s sounding very likely that the Cardinals also trade down with a team looking to draft a thrower. I would think the Seahawks likely take one in the second round.

Longshot prediction: the Seahawks draft TWO quarterbacks this year, one in the second round, one somewhere on the third day of the draft.

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