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Seattle’s season was not supposed to end this way. I don’t mean the 41-23 loss to a loaded 49ers team. It was predictable. I’m talking about the Seahawks even making it to wild-card weekend after entering the season looking like one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Seattle overachieved for many reasons this season. But perhaps the biggest reason was hard-working quarterback Geno Smith, who in the biggest upset of all beat Drew Lock in the preseason QB competition and led his team to a tiebreaker. It’s the 7th seed in the NFC and now appears to be Seattle’s choice at QB in 2023.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Smith’s work is already closed. But he still needs a contract. The 32-year-old is scheduled to hit free agency this spring, and Seattle will try to get a deal done before then, though Rapoport also reported that the Seahawks would use Smith’s franchise tag if a long-term deal doesn’t work out. do it before the March 7 deadline. The tag for the quarterbacks is believed to be around $30 million, which is an outrageously high starting point for negotiations. This won’t be a low-risk, high-reward deal, not after Smith broke franchise records for passing yards and completion percentage while leading the Seahawks back to the playoffs this season. Smith’s contract, whatever it is, will have a lasting impact on the franchise, for better or worse.

If Geno lights up San Francisco and causes a major upset in Seattle on Saturday, there could be a big-money deal on the table. And if it smelled, just saying LOL JK the whole “it’s Geno’s thing” thing and cutting ties would also be understandable. Instead, his performance was somewhere in the middle. There were a number of high-profile plays, including a perfectly timed touchdown to DK Metcalf that gave the Seahawks their first lead of the game.

But things were much tougher in the second half. Late in the third quarter, Smith coughed up the ball on a strip sack that was the beginning of the end for Seattle. And his fourth-quarter interception (on Tyler Lockett’s lazy route, to be fair) ended the game for good.

This game was essentially a microcosm of Geno’s breakout season, which makes his contract situation so complicated. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a long-time copycat hit the right place at the right time and land top-10 numbers. But this wasn’t a case of Cain throwing YOLO balls to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen for the 2017 Vikings, or Brock Purdy riding Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers’ offense to success. There was a little more substance to his game, the kind of substance you usually see in top quarterbacks. For example, Smith was the NFL’s most accurate quarterback this season, leading the league in field goal percentage per Tru Media. Pro Football Focus credited him with 34 Big Time Throws, defined as “excellent ball placement and timing, usually thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window.” Only Josh Allen had more. And Smith’s combination of pocket presence and arm talent wowed film watchers all season long. He seemed to make a play like this every week.

But there are also major red flags. Smith’s efficiency numbers were impressive in the first and second phases, when defenders must respect the run and are vulnerable to play-action. But he was near the bottom of the league at third when defenders threw their curveballs and fastballs. Not surprisingly, Smith had issues against the blitz, and the second half of the season saw a sharp increase in turnover-worthy plays to coincide with the regression of Seattle’s offensive line. General topic: Smith struggled when he had to quicken his pace and adjust to changing defenders after the snap.

Paradoxically, Smith was pretty good at throwing pass rushers in his grill. He was the NFL’s most accurate linebacker when under pressure and ranked fourth in pass completion rate, according to TruMedia. To extend the baseball metaphor from the last paragraph, Smith is primarily a power hitter who crushes fastballs when he gets ahead but struggles when he falls behind. But as long as Geno has been around, it’s easy to forget how little experience he’s had on the field this season. As he tweeted last week, we could see a much simpler process from him next season now that he has a year of game tape to grind.

With all of these questions, simply tagging Geno and calling it a day seems like the safest bet for Seattle. But it will also be the most expensive for 2023. As previously mentioned, the tag would be around $30 million, and while a multi-year deal would require a bigger financial commitment in the long run, the structure of the deal would likely keep the Year 1 cap fairly low. That’s usually how quarterback contracts are structured.

The Seahawks are projected to have more than $45 million in cap space this offseason, so they have the budget to support a big tackle, but that will limit what the front office can do; all resources that the Front Office has collected over the past calendar year.

With an impressive young core and some new additions, the Seahawks could be next year’s new “All In” team, but that will be harder to do if Smith takes up most of the cap. A multi-year deal would give Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider more room to make aggressive moves, and this brain trust has never shied away from them.

The deal Tennessee gave Ryan Tannehill after signing him in 2019 gives Seattle a good blueprint for a possible contract structure. The Titans gave Tannehill, then 31, a four-year, $118 million deal that was actually a three-year deal worth about $29.5 million per season. His cap hit in the first year took up 10 percent of the cap. Adjusted for marginal inflation, a similar deal would pay Smith around $33 million annually, with a first-year cap hit of around $22 million.

In the years that followed, Tennessee had to restructure Tannehill’s deal twice, extending what was supposed to be a three-year commitment to what turned out to be four years. But the Titans haven’t won a playoff game since Tannehill put pen to paper, and that’s Seattle’s concern. the option that carries the least long-term risk, the franchise tag, will hinder them in the short term. However, short-sighted play could lock the team into mediocrity if Geno is good over the next few seasons.

If Carroll and Schneider have already decided that Geno is their boy, then the decision continues how Paying Smith could come down to the valuation of other players on the roster (and their ability to improve it over the next few months). If they feel this roster is a few pieces away from becoming a legitimate threat to San Francisco in the NFC West, they need to aggressively attack these next few months, starting with a multi-year deal for Smith that reduces his immediate impact. : They have the picks and money to address all of the team’s weaknesses — mainly the offensive and defensive lines — while leaving enough money for some fancy moves, and enough capital to develop a QB prospect that’s considered a weak ranking. top

It would be a risky move, but betting on Geno worked out well for Seattle last summer, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation if it hadn’t.


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