RENTON — As is usually the case with big NFL contracts, the real meat is in the details.
And when some of the more specific numbers of the three-year deal Geno Smith has agreed to with the Seattle Seahawks began to emerge Tuesday, they revealed a little different picture than the one initially painted Monday afternoon.
What was reported Monday was a three-year deal worth up to $105 million — or $35 million per year — with $52 million in the first calendar year.
Those remain true.
But as reported by Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network, the contract has a base value of $25 million per year, due to $30 million being included as incentives, with $40 million guaranteed at signing, and $28 million in the first year.
The heavy emphasis on incentives is different from the contracts Seattle did with Russell Wilson, which consisted almost solely of annual salary and bonus (those two factors made up all of its base value of $35 million a year in the deal he signed in 2019).
And that means that Seattle indeed got something of a hedge in case Smith does turn out to be a one-year wonder.
Conversely, the guaranteed $40 million gave Smith more than the $32.4 million he would have gotten with the franchise tag, something he probably needed to have to agree to anything with Seattle.
And if Smith plays like a top-10 quarterback, as he did in 2022, he will end up being paid like one (the exact nature of the incentives had not been revealed, but many are likely similar to those he had in this year’s deal, for things such as making the Pro Bowl, all of which Smith reached to bump his $3.5 million base value to earning $7 million overall in 2022).
All represent the payday of a lifetime for the 32-year-old Smith, who had made $17.5 million in the first 10 seasons of his NFL career.
But should Smith falter, Seattle is not on the hook for all of the $35 million per year of the initially reported deal — and which ties him with Kirk Cousins for 10th among all QBs in average per year.
“It’s heavily structured that way,” coach Pete Carroll said of the incentives when he appeared on Seattle Sports 710 AM Tuesday morning, saying that Smith is “gambling a little bit in that sense on himself.”
A report from SI.com stated that Seattle’s initial proposal to Smith was for three years and $75 million overall and that it was adding the incentives that helped ultimately get the deal done.
“We’re counting on him coming through and doing the things that he was able to do last year,” Carroll said of Smith, who led the NFL in completion percentage at 69.8% and was fourth in touchdown passes with 30.
“… And if he does that, he’s gonna get rewarded. And we know that if he’s able to come back and do that, he’s gonna have a great season and we’re gonna be in great shape. We’re gonna have a real chance to be at our best.”
And Carroll said he ultimately felt it was a deal fair to all sides.
“Everybody’s connected on it,” he said. “It’s a good deal and a good deal to the club. I think it sends a really good message, too, to everybody on the outside that this is a good place and things are going in the right direction.”
And again, while all of the contract had not been revealed as of Tuesday morning, Garafolo’s report indicates it is likely backloaded in salary with no guarantees beyond the first calendar year. That likely means it is essentially a two-year deal in which Smith gets a third if he plays well.
Carroll indicated that the incentive structure helped team chair Jody Allen to sign off on it, saying, “It’s a strong part of the contract. And I think that’s maybe why ownership is so happy with it, too.”
The true structure of the deal means it does nothing to change Seattle’s thoughts of drafting a quarterback with one of its first two first-round picks this year if the Seahawks want.
Carroll, who said at the combine that a Smith signing wouldn’t preclude taking a QB in the draft, reiterated that Tuesday, saying, “That opportunity is absolutely there. We can do whatever we need to do.”
And the planning now becomes easier with Smith’s contract out of the way.
While the franchise tag deadline of Tuesday helped spur getting the contract done, so did the beginning of the free agent signing period a week from Wednesday — but with some players already becoming available by being released in anticipation of that period.
“We can plan and we can plan,” Carroll said. “But until we knock the big one in the boat …”
With Smith’s contract reeled in, Seattle now knows exactly what it has heading into free agency.
The Seahawks had $12.6 million in effective cap space before agreeing to terms with Smith, according to OvertheCap.com.
As noted, no official cap number for Smith was yet available, but it will surely eat into that some. Conversely, Seattle has some moves it can make to create cap space, such as the widely anticipated release of guard Gabe Jackson, which would free up $6.5 million.
“We have some flexibility,” Carroll said. “We don’t have a lot, but we have some flexibility. We have to be really smart, really judicious about every step of the way here.”
That seems to read to not expect any really big splashes in free agency, with Smith possibly serving as the biggest the Seahawks will make, with Seattle knowing its real impact moves might be reserved for the draft and the 10 picks it has, five in the first three rounds.
But whatever moves Seattle makes, Carroll says he plans to put together a team that can compete at the highest level on the field.
Asked if the Seahawks can win a Super Bowl during Carroll’s contract, the coach responded, “Yeah we could. Heck yeah we can.
“He’s gonna do his part. We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of stuff we have to get done. We have a lot of decisions to make, and this is an extraordinary draft coming up, that has been ongoing too. And we haven’t left that topic either. You know, that’s been ongoing. So there’s multiple topics just like I like it — a lot of balls in the air at the same time. Let the music play and let’s be dancing. Let’s do the whole thing.”
Or, as the Seahawks tweeted Tuesday announcing the deal with Smith, “Our journey continues.”
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