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Why the Seahawks could cut Geno Smith if he's not named as the starting QB
Seaside Joe 1265. 8/22/22: Smith's incentives to get paid are Seattle's incentives to re-work his contract...again. That's something no other writer has told you.
The Seattle Seahawks signed Geno Smith to a contract in April that would have paid him as a low-tier starter with incentives going up to a total value of $7 million. And then the NFL made them tear that contract up and start over and the Seahawks signed Smith to a different deal that won’t even make him one of the 35 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL, even if he earns every dime of his incentives.
That tells me that the Seahawks got “too cute” with Smith’s initial $3.5 million in incentives, that they didn’t view him as the starter after cutting his contract in half without the quarterback getting a competing offer from another team, and that when you get into the details of the deal, Seattle is in a position to release Geno Smith if he isn’t going to be the Week 1 starter.
I’ve been saying for over a month that I don’t believe he will be the starter and in spite of last week’s hiccup for the competition, I continue to expect Drew Lock to win the job. The evidence is not only in Smith’s nine-year career or what’s transpired in practices and preseason games, the reason for making Geno Smith one of the final cuts is right there in his contract.
The one that the NFL made the Seahawks re-do.
Today’s Joe is a little later than usual but I have several good excuses. This morning I lost both the power in my house and the internet in my neighborhood simultaneously (luckily as far as I know the plot of the movie Greenland isn’t happening) which set me back to begin with. Then I used that time to continue my training for the Laps 4 Lock Challenge.
For every Drew Lock passing touchdown with the Seattle Seahawks this season, I will run five miles in a single day that week.
If any of you are wondering what the point of this challenge is, I don’t have a good answer for you. What was the point of “What color is the dress?” or “Laurel/Yanny”? The opportunity for people who didn’t know that you could lie on the internet to start practicing lying on the internet?
The stated goal of Laps 4 Lock is…I’m doing something different. As far as I know, no other writers in my general area of expertise have ever attempted anything like it and whether or not that turns out to be for good reason is something I’m willing to fail at because I want readers this season to feel like Seaside Joe is a blog/newsletter/website/resource unlike any other. I’m not like no other writer.
I’m like Joe other writer.
What a segue into: “Hey please sign up for a free newsletter or consider upgrading just to say ‘nice newsletter, dude’”
The thing that would be most challenging in Laps 4 Lock is obviously that my worst case scenario is the Seahawks’ best case scenario (and then by proxy arguably my best case scenario) and that Drew Lock is rapidly accumulating touchdowns if he becomes Seattle’s starter. Because prior to having this idea, the longest I had ever run in a single (what do runners even call it? in a single run? that’s just as confusing as my ‘best case scenario’ sentence) attempt was 10 miles.
And prior to a couple of years ago, I had never gone running before.
But for the last two years I’ve consistently gone running 3-6 times per week and it’s good to have the motivation to continue stretching my times and distances for any reason at all. Why not connect it to a mediocre fourth-year quarterback who could turn out to be better than mediocre with the Seahawks? In the first week of training for this challenge, I ran 11.5 miles for the first time. And then today, I set another new personal best by running a half marathon for the first time.
Somehow running half of a marathon makes running an entire marathon seem both more possible than ever and impossible at the same time. I did it but…you’re telling me that I have to do that TWICE?
Of course, there is still one huge, relevant, and some would say insurmountable hurdle between me getting ready to run 15 miles if Lock goes for a three-ball night and me having to change course entirely: Geno Smith.
A little over a month ago, I laid out my argument for why I feel that the Seahawks intentions all along have been to start Lock and despite last week’s setback, my opinion hasn’t changed even slightly. I believe there are a lot of relevant arguments (that no other writer has mentioned) in that article so I would recommend reading it if you haven’t yet, but two of the best are:
No other “starting” quarterback has a contract guarantee as low as Smith’s $500k—and it’s not close
No other team showed interest in Smith as a free agent after seeing his three starts last season
It feels like a lot of people are afraid to outright say that Geno Smith is a backup quarterback even though Geno Smith has been a backup quarterback in this league for the last seven years—with nobody challenging that assessment until it became apparent that it was either going to be him or Lock within the last two months.
The Seahawks guaranteed Smith only $500,000 this year, which is a lower financial commitment than any quarterback who will make a roster this year. Not just starters: Any quarterback who makes a roster for this entire season will earn more than $500,000.
The Raiders made a stronger financial commitment to Jarrett Stidham than Seattle did for Smith. And in Smith’s absolute best case scenario, the $3.5 million he could earn would tie him with Bills backup Case Keenum, and rank lower than Taylor Heinicke, Mason Rudolph, Jacoby Brissett, Teddy Bridgewater, and Mitchell Trubisky.
Trubisky is a good example too because the Steelers gave him a two-year, $14.3 million contract with a $5.25 million guarantee. Nearly 10 times greater than the guarantee between the Seahawks and Geno Smith.
At the time of re-signing Geno Smith, after A MONTH of being a free agent, Pete Carroll had already acquired Lock and most likely already assessed that it would come down to those two quarterbacks with no other challengers. He has said this entire time that Geno Smith “is the starter” and yet the contract says otherwise and I would much rather listen to money than a head coach who believes it’s his job to motivate players to get the best out of them.
I don’t think Smith has been lied to either. I think that Smith is aware of Seattle’s intentions and okay with it, which is why he agreed to a contract that only has a $500,000 guarantee but will increase by $3 million IF he wins the job and keeps it.
So far, some of you are thinking, “This is a reach. Sure, Smith had no other offers, teams liked Trubisky because he’s younger* but the Seahawks incentivized his contract because he’s probably taking one for the team and it’s a hometown discount and blah blah blah.”
(*sounds like saying that teams would prefer to start the younger option? *hint* *hint*)
Look, I’m only positing a theory that I’ve come up with when examining all the evidence which is exactly what anyone’s doing who believes that Geno Smith is legitimately the starter and won’t give it up. We’ve just come to different conclusions and that’s fine. The point of Seaside Joe is to give you my most educated guess as to what will happen (like guessing that the team would draft Charles Cross one day after they traded Russell Wilson or getting DK Metcalf’s contract exactly right) or why something happened, not to tell you what I *want* to happen or what I *hope* happens.
When it’s a want or a hope, you’ll know.
But you know what the most telling piece of evidence is from the Geno Smith contract details? It’s not that his guarantee is only $500,000. It’s not that his 2022 salary cap hit ranks 37th among all quarterbacks, which is not exactly the strong endorsement you’d expect of an expected starting quarterback—and that’s only IF Smith earns every penny of his incentives. And it’s not that he can earn up to $1.105 million in per game roster bonuses=$65,000 per game.
It’s that when the Seahawks submitted the Geno Smith contract in April…the NFL rejected the terms.
Geno Smith’s contract was initially announced on April 14 as a one-year, $7 million contract with up to $3.5 million in incentives. Then five days later, the news came out that the NFL rejected the contract and Ian Rapoport tweeted that the Seahawks would get it “fixed” and all would be fine. Now, we know the contract as one year and $3.5 million with $3 million in incentives, instead of a one-year base salary of $3.5 million and $3.5 million in incentives.
That’s a HUGE difference.
A $3.5 million base salary with $3.5 million in incentives would be starter money—kind of. No quarterback really signs contracts like that and a lot of the NFL’s starters are on their rookie deals, so it complicates comparisons, but Bridgewater is a highly-paid backup in Miami because of distrust in Tua Tagovailoa; he makes $6.5 million.
I do not know what happened with Geno’s contract but here are two things I feel about the situation:
Pete Carroll’s regime can be creative to the point of being “too cute” and it’s possible that Seattle crossed a line that the NFL didn’t like in his $3.5 million incentives (or base salary) and made them do it again
You don’t fuck up to the point of almost accidentally giving your quarterback TWICE AS MUCH MONEY on the contract you submit to the NFL for approval; this was not a mistake
One thing that is apparent about Smith’s contract disapproval is that it is rare. It’s not like “this happens all the time because contracts are 500 pages,” this is a rare occurrence. So that’s another reason it feels like “too cute.” The other part of that equation is that being cute and then cutting the contract IN HALF would suggest that the Seahawks were trying to get away with exaggerating value in some manner with the contract.
Again, you’re allowed to call this a reach by me. But it is the most interesting thing about a contract that in its BEST CASE SCENARIO would not make Smith one of the 32 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL this season.
So—why would the Seahawks release Smith if Lock wins the starting job? Because of the incentives…incentives that may have been “too cute” back in April and were adjusted to be stricken from the record if Smith retains his job as Seattle’s backup quarterback. Yes, I still expect Geno Smith to be Drew Lock’s backup if Drew Lock wins the starting position.
I just believe he could be released first.
Wow! Seaside Joe has crazy unique insight you won’t get anywhere else!
It would behoove the Seahawks the most if Drew Lock is situated as the starter going into final cuts because:
The team owes Geno Smith a $585,000 roster bonus if he makes the 53-man roster
The team would pay him $1.105 million for being ACTIVE every week, not for playing
The team owes Smith a $50,000 workout bonus, though I’m not clear when that workout happened and if it could happen at a Bally’s or not.
The Seahawks would also have to pay his $1.26 million base salary, which is about $500,000 more than a lot of backups but not really the biggest sticking point. The sticking point is that on his current deal, which is really formatted to continue only if he wins the starting gig, is the team paying him $1.105 million to be the backup and $585,000 by making the 53.
That’s $1,690,000 that Seattle doesn’t have to pay Geno Smith unless they need him to be the Week 1 starter. Here’s how it should work instead:
Cut Geno Smith, save $3,000,000 against the cap initially
Keep only one quarterback and use that extra roster spot to keep Tre Brown on the 53-man roster
Put Tre Brown on PUP to open up a roster spot
Re-sign Geno Smith, a quarterback wholly unlikely to get another offer by a different team based on the 30 days he spent as a free agent in March and April
The contract will not pay Geno Smith active roster bonuses; it will pay him PLAYING TIME INCENTIVE bonuses: $1,000,000 if he plays in at least 75% of the snaps, $500,000 if he plays in 50%, $250,000 if he plays in 25%.
Therefore, Geno Smith can still earn up to $2.25-$2.5 million if he unseats Drew Lock after Week 1, but the team won’t have to pay him $3.5 million just because of his current deal. That contract was only if the team needed him to be the starter going into the season.
So unless Lock plays so bad against the Cowboys that Pete Carroll feels no confidence him against his old team, or gets hurt, I think that the Seahawks will be prepared to cut Smith from the 53-man roster and then bring him back after placing Brown on PUP.
And I don’t think Geno Smith will be upset because hopefully the team learned something about transparency after the Bobby Wagner situation in March. Plus, I think Seattle continues to be his best offer and that Smith continues to be Seattle’s best option as a backup.
If I’m wrong, maybe I’ll have to tear up the Laps 4 Lock contract and start over. If I’m right, just tell a friend that Joe Knows.