After a frenzied run-up to the franchise tag deadline, the Giants have been a bit quieter leading up to free agency. The team’s top business is complete, though they will also be prepared to add talent next week and try to negotiate a Saquon Barkleyextension before the July deadline. The Giants’ top contract is done, however, with Daniel Jones agreeing to a four-year, $160MM deal. That contract includes $82MM fully guaranteed — eighth among QBs — and both his 2023 and 2024 base salaries ($9.5MM, $35.5MM) are fully guaranteed, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. Most of Jones’ 2025 base ($30MM) is guaranteed for injury at signing, but it does not become fully guaranteed until the 2025 league year. Rather than a year-out vesting date, Jones’ 2025 guarantees not vesting until that point gives the team an out barring injury. Jones’ $46MM 2026 base salary is nonguaranteed, Florio adds.
Although the nonguaranteed 2026 money more accurately tabs this deal as a three-year, $112.5MM pact, the Giants would be on the hook for just $18MM in dead money were they to shed it from their payroll in 2025. Here is the latest from the QB ranks:
The Seahawks look to have convinced Geno Smith to accept a “prove it” contract, albeit on a major raise. Initially reported as a three-year, $105MM pact, Smith’s deal includes full guarantees ($27.3MM) that only stretch through 2023. An additional $12.7MM is guaranteed for injury until February, when NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo notes (on Twitter) it shifts to a full guarantee. That gives the Seahawks additional time to evaluate Smith, who surprised most with his 2022 performance. Smith’s guarantee consists of a $26.1MM signing bonus and a $1.2MM base salary in 2023, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. The Seahawks could designate Smith as a post-June 1 cut in 2024 and be charged with just $8.7MM in dead money. Pete Carroll has spoken of the possibility the Seahawks could take a quarterback at No. 5. While the trade-down-happy team may be trying to create a market for the pick, the Smith details point to the team’s QB situation not being settled beyond 2023.
Browns GM Andrew Berry discussed the possibility of a Deshaun Watsonrestructure. While this is a restructure-crazed point on the NFL calendar, the prospect of adjusting this particular deal would create some new territory due to the $230MM fully guaranteed sum. The Browns do not need Watson’s permission to reshuffle money on his deal, Florio notes. Watson is on Cleveland’s 2023 cap sheet at a record-shattering $54.9MM. A restructure this year could create $33.69MM in cap space, Florio adds. Moving more money onto future caps would create some eye-popping figures, but it is a route the Browns can take to create cap space this year. Cleveland is currently more than $14MM over the cap.
Bailey Zappe‘s cameo as a Patriots starter caused became a storyline briefly last season, and while Mac Jones won his job back, Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes Zappe will have a chance to push Jones for the job in 2023 (subscription required). After a record-setting season at Western Kentucky, Zappe completed 70.7% of his passes and won both his starts as a Patriot. Jones helped Bill O’Brien learn Alabama’s system back in 2021, when the former was preparing for the draft, so it would be interesting to see if Zappe will cause a legitimate QB controversy this year.
The Jets are interested in bringing backMike White, but they are expected to have some competition. Other teams are interested in adding the popular Jet as an option to compete for a role, Garafolo notes (video link). This could be as a bridge option for a team planning to draft a quarterback. The Jets have zeroed in on Aaron Rodgers. If the all-time great does decide he wants in on the Big Apple, White would seemingly be headed elsewhere.
MARCH 7: As is often the case, a later update pegged this contract at a slightly lower value. The deal’s base value sits at three years and $75MM, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. Smith will collect $40MM fully guaranteed, per Garafolo, and incentives comprise the rest of the $105MM max value. Smith going from a $3.5MM agreement in 2022 to this represents a staggering leap for the 11th-year veteran, even though the $25MM-per-year base pay is not quite what came out Monday night.
MARCH 6: The Seahawks have subscribed for more of quarterback Geno Smith, signing the veteran to a new multi-year contract, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. After leading the Seahawks to the postseason in his first year as a full-time starter for the team, the 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year is coming back to Seattle.
Smith agreed to a three-year deal worth $105MM, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. While many details are as of yet unknown, Smith is expected to make $52MM in his first year under the deal. After making $17.55MM over the first 10 years of his career, Smith is now set to double that in his contract’s $35MM average annual value (AAV) and nearly triple it in his first year of the deal. The new contract ranks 13th for NFL quarterbacks in total value and 10th for AAV.
After serving as a full-time starting quarterback in his rookie and sophomore seasons, Smith, a second-round pick for the Jets in 2013, was seemingly relegated to backup duties. After backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers for the Jets, Giants, and Chargers, respectively, Smith finally wound up in Seattle to battle Paxton Lynch for the backup quarterback position behind Russell Wilson.
Smith spent the next three years as one of the more capable backups in the NFL, proving as much in 2021 during a four-game stretch that saw Smith throw for 702 yards, five touchdowns, and only one interception while replacing Wilson in surprisingly competitive contests. When Wilson was traded to the Broncos, Smith was given an opportunity to compete for the starting job with newly acquired Drew Lock, who came over in the Wilson trade.
Smith ended up winning Seattle’s starting job and rewarded the Seahawks with the best season of his career. In his first season as a starting quarterback in eight years, Smith led his team to the playoffs, earned a Pro Bowl bid, led the league in completion percentage, and won Comeback Player of the Year. Smith posted career-high numbers in passing yards (4,282) and passing touchdowns (30), and his interception total (11) was the lowest in any of his three seasons as a starter. Smith’s yardage total set a Seahawks record.
The well-traveled passer will now be under contract in Seattle through the 2025 season, during which he will turn 35. It’s good to see Smith make so much out of his second opportunity to start in the NFL. It will be exciting to see how much more he can make of it in the next three years.
Reports on contract talks between quarterback Geno Smith and the Seahawks have indicated that both sidesare optimistic a deal will get done. However, the latest such report was a full month ago. With the March 7 deadline for teams to utilize a franchise or transition tag looming, it is unclear how much progress has been made in negotiations, or if Seattle will hit its breakout passer with a tag.
Deadlines can always spur action, so it would not be surprising to see a deal struck over the next 48 hours or so. The Seahawks, though, are carefully evaluating the top quarterbacks in this year’s class, and as they possess the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 draft due to last offseason’s Russell Wilson trade (along with their own No. 20 overall selection), the club is well-positioned to select a high-profile signal-caller if it so chooses.
At the scouting combine in Indianapolis last week, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters, including Brady Henderson of ESPN.com, “[w]e are totally connected to the quarterbacks that are coming out. This is a really huge opportunity for us. It’s a rare opportunity. We’ve been drafting in the low 20s for such a long time; you just don’t get the chance with these guys. So we’re deeply involved with all that.”
When asked how much the Seahawks are studying this year’s quarterback class, GM John Schneider said, “a lot. Every year, honestly, we really look at it a lot. Like I said earlier, we haven’t picked fifth overall since we’ve been here. So yeah, I got out to see a lot of quarterbacks this year. It was pretty fun.”
As Carroll and Schneider indicated, the ‘Hawks have typically had a native pick late in the first round during their tenure in Seattle, and the most coveted collegiate passers generally do not fall that far. So while Schneider acknowledged that he looks closely at every year’s quarterback class, his 2023 draft capital gives him an opportunity he has rarely had.
Of course, as Michael-Shawn Dugar of The Athletic posits, the comments made by Carroll and Schneider could be part of a ploy to get quarterback-needy teams to leapfrog the Seahawks in a trade-up maneuver, thereby increasing the chances that an elite non-QB like Alabama edge defender Will Anderson Jr. or Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter falls to them (subscription required). But Dugar does not believe that is the case. Even when Wilson was piloting the club to division titles and playoff runs, Schneider attended the pro days of quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, and he has regretted not selecting more QBs over his 13 drafts as Seattle’s GM.
To be clear, even if Schneider is serious about nabbing one of this year’s prized quarterback prospects, it does not mean that he will allow Smith to walk. Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com (via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times) projects that a fair contract for Smith would be a two-year pact worth between $55MM-$60MM, and given that the 2023 Comeback Player of the Year will turn 33 in October, a two- or three-year accord sounds about right. Which means that Schneider could draft a top-flight quarterback and groom him behind Smith for a couple of years before turning over the reins, just as mentor Ted Thompson did when, as general manager of the Packers in 2005, he selected Aaron Rodgers and had him sit behind Brett Favre for several seasons.
Schneider recently said that contract discussions with Smith have been “positive,” but he did not indicate that an agreement was particularly close. And as Henderson writes in a separate piece, Schneider may not be inclined to use a tag on Smith (as our own Sam Robinson suggested last month, and as ESPN’s Dan Graziano wrote in a subscription-only piece today). If he doesn’t, and if no deal is reached by the time the legal tampering period opens on March 13, Smith would then be able to talk to other clubs, and the Seahawks would not have the right of first refusal.
Meanwhile, Seattle still wants to retain Drew Lock (ideally to reprise his 2022 role as Smith’s backup). Several experts that Henderson has consulted believe Lock will get no more than a one-year deal for the league minimum salary ($1.08MM), while others believe he will be able to command slightly more, but no higher than $3MM.
February 16th, 2023 at 10:15pm CST by Sam Robinson
Set to begin its fourth decade of existence, the franchise tag remains a valuable tool for teams to keep top free agents off the market. This year’s tag window opens at 3pm CT on Feb. 21 and closes at 3pm CT on March 7. The NFL released its franchise tag figures — regarding the non-exclusive tag, at least, which will apply to all but one possible tag recipient — earlier this month, and teams are busy budgeting for free agency.
The legal tampering period opens March 13, with the new league year (and official free agency) starting March 15. Once a player is tagged, he has until July 15 to sign an extension with his respective team. Absent an extension agreement by that date, the player must play the 2023 season on the tag (or go the Le’Veon Bell/Dan Williams/Sean Gilbert route, passing on guaranteed money and skipping the season).
With high-profile free agents weeks away from hitting the market, here are the players who figure to be tagged or at least generate conversations about a tag ahead of the March 7 deadline.
One of the most obvious tag candidates since the tag’s 1993 debut, Jackson has been extension-eligible since January 2021. He and the Ravens went through negotiations in 2021 and 2022, negotiating into the season two years ago and stopping talks before Week 1 — a Jackson mandate — of last season. The self-represented quarterback has declined multiple Ravens offers in this span and failed to finish a season for the second straight year. The endless extension drama and rumblings of team frustration about Jackson’s failure to return from an ankle injury aside, the team will tag the former MVP.
Baltimore GM Eric DeCosta said last month he had not decided on using the exclusive or non-exclusive tag — the former preventing teams from talking to the QB, the latter opening the door to offer sheets — but a recent report suggested the team is more likely to roll the dice by using the non-exclusive tag. This would allow another team to sign to Jackson, 25, to the fully guaranteed deal he covets (in a transaction that could send two first-round picks Baltimore’s way) but also hit the Ravens with just a $32.4MM cap hit.
With the Browns collecting three first-rounders and change for Deshaun Watson, the Ravens would almost definitely want more than the two-first-rounder haul attached as baseline compensation for franchise tag offer sheets. But an exclusive QB tag is expected to check in beyond $45MM; this would severely restrict the Ravens in free agency.
Criticized by some for turning down the Chiefs’ six-year, $139MM extension offer in July 2022, Brown stayed healthy this season and earned another Pro Bowl nod. The mammoth left tackle is 2-for-2 in Pro Bowls as a Chief, and although he is not quite a top-tier blindsider, he would be one of this year’s top free agents if permitted to hit the market. The Super Bowl champions are not expected to let that happen. A second Brown tag would come in at $19.99MM, being 120% of his 2022 salary.
Brown, 26, cited insufficient guarantees in the Chiefs’ July proposal, which contained $38MM guaranteed at signing and $52.25MM guaranteed in total. The total guarantee figure trailed only ex-Ravens teammate Ronnie Stanleyamong tackles, while the full guarantee would have placed Brown fourth at the position. Brown turning down that proposal brought risk, and some in the Chiefs organization expressed frustration with the talented blocker. But the former Ravens right tackle’s bet on himself still appears to be paying off. This will be a crucial offseason for the Chiefs and Brown. A third tag — 144% of Brown’s 2023 salary — in 2024 would be viewed as untenable, sending him to free agency on the Kirk Cousins/Trumaine Johnson path. That makes July 15 a fairly firm deadline for Brown and the Chiefs.
After Las Vegas’ new regime passed on Jacobs’ fifth-year option, he became the first Raider to win the rushing title since Marcus Allen in 1985. Jacobs led the NFL in touches in 2022 (393) but was never a primary ball-carrier at Alabama; the former first-round pick should still have some tread on his tires. Running back extensions have become popular but divisive in recent years. While Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and (for now) Ezekiel Elliott are attached to deals worth at least $15MM per year, the Raiders can tag Jacobs at just $10.1MM.
Jacobs, 24, has expressed a desire to stay in Nevada, and Josh McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler want to continue this partnership as well. With many quality running backs on track for free agency, new deals could be finalized before the Raiders become serious about Jacobs negotiations. Whether that happens this year or not, the former first-round pick is unlikely to reach the market.
After early-offseason extension rumblings, the Commanders did not move too far in this direction last year. They re-upped Terry McLaurinand let Payne play out a contract year. But Payne turned 2022 into a platform campaign that stands to make him one of this year’s top free agents. The Commanders are soon to have $26MM in additional cap space, by moving on from Carson Wentz, and the team will likely give strong consideration to keeping Payne off the market. The defensive tackle tag costs $18.94MM. Washington has begun Payne talks, but those are still in the early stages.
Washington has some mouths to feed on its defensive line, with both Montez Sweat and Chase Young now extension-eligible. The team already paid Payne’s Alabama and Washington D-tackle teammate, Jonathan Allen, and drafted another Crimson Tide interior rusher (Phidarian Mathis) in Round 2 last year. Mathis went down in Week 1, and Payne broke through for an 11.5-sack, 18-TFL season. A tag here is not an open-and-shut tag case, but it would be a tough blow for the Commanders to see their sack leader walk. Regrouping with Payne, 25, would make more sense, especially with the team not preparing to spend big at quarterback this offseason.
Seeming likelier by the week, a Pollard tag would keep an emerging playmaker with a light career workload in the fold. The Cowboys are believed to be strongly considering a tag here, even with Ezekiel Elliott‘s bloated contract on the books. Elliott taking less to stay — it would need to be a lot less — has already been floated, opening the door for his better-performing (in recent years, at least) backup to stick around on the $10.1MM number or via an extension.
It would be strange to tag a backup, but Pollard, 25, is essentially a Dallas starter. He matched Elliott with 12 touchdowns in 2022 and smashed his career-high scrimmage yards number with 1,378. Pollard’s 631 career touches rank just 24th among backs since 2019, pointing to a few prime years remaining on the horizon. With Elliott’s cap number near certain to move down from its present $16.7MM place and Pollard not at risk of seeing his fractured fibula affect his 2023 availability, the former fourth-round find should be back in Dallas.
Passing on Jones’ fifth-year option — an understandable decision, given Jones’ first three seasons — leads the Giants to one of the more interesting free agency quandaries in recent memory. After making Saquon Barkley a higher priority regarding in-season extension talks, Big Blue’s new regime has come around on Jones. The former No. 6 overall pick piloting the Giants to the divisional round for the first time in 11 years transformed his value from where it was entering the season, and GM Joe Schoen all but assured the fifth-year passer will be back with the team in 2023. Will that be on a long-term deal or via the tag?
If the Giants and Jones, 25, cannot find common ground before March 7, the tag will likely come out. The team encountered this situation with Leonard Williams in 2021 and tagged the trade acquisition for a second time. That preceded a monster extension. The Giants probably should be careful here, with two late-season matchups against a porous Vikings defense boosting Jones’ value — to the $35MM-per-year range. But the team also should be eager to see Jones in Brian Daboll‘s offense and surrounded by better pass catchers.
A Giants team that battled injuries and bad investments at wide receiver relied on Barkley for much of 2022. Losing the two-time Pro Bowler for nothing will bring considerable risk. Jones sitting atop the Giants’ to-do list may be a pivot from the midseason point, when Schoen referenced a Barkley tag. A positional value-based course change could send Barkley to free agency.
The Giants are believed to have offered Barkley a deal in the $12.5MM-per-year neighborhood, and while the former No. 2 overall pick cited his injury history (21 missed games from 2019-21) in saying he is not looking to reset the running back market, Schoen noted the sides’ 2022 negotiation did not come close to a deal. Barkley, 25, is believed to be seeking a contract near McCaffrey’s $16MM-per-year market-setting price. A $14MM-AAV compromise could be in play, but Barkley may also be keen on testing the market.
Tagging Jones at $32.4MM would clog the Giants’ cap ahead of free agency, whereas as a Barkley tag ($10.1MM) would not drain the team’s funds on the same level. Barkley can make a case he is worthy of the McCaffrey-Kamara tier, given his production (when healthy) and versatility — and the salary cap jumping nearly $30MM (to $224.8MM) since those stars’ 2020 extensions were finalized. But the Giants are not yet prepared to go much higher than the $12MM-AAV range — the second tier for running backs. Jones talks not producing a deal would put the Giants to a decision; Barkley could become one of the most talented backs to hit free agency.
While Barkley is a better player, Jones has become the Giants’ top priority. Tagging the quarterback would be far more expensive than cuffing Barkley. A Jones extension/Barkley tag scenario remains the best Giants path, but that can only come to fruition if Jones agrees to terms before March 7.
With Joe Burrow now extension-eligible, new contractual territory awaits the Bengals. Tee Higgins is also eligible for a new deal, with Germaine Pratt weeks away from free agency. Vonn Bell, a three-year Bengals starter who is also nearing free agency, would be a cheaper alternative at safety to keeping Bates on a second tag. Cincinnati also drafted potential Bates heir apparent Dax Hill in the first round. This all points to the Bengals letting Bates walk — as they did defenders Carl Lawson and William Jackson in 2021 — but the former second-round pick is still one of the league’s top safeties.
The Bengals and Bates never came close on an extension last year; the team’s conservative guarantee policy led to an offer of $16MM guaranteed at signing. While player personnel director Duke Tobin said last summer renegotiations this year will not be off the table, Bates will likely hit the market. The five-year Cincinnati starter, who will turn 26 next week, can be re-tagged at $15.5MM.
The Bucs tagged Chris Godwin in each of the past two years and prioritized retaining their core players above all else during that span. But, with Tom Brady‘s void-years money hitting the Bucs’ cap in 2023, a Dean tag will be difficult to pull off. The Saints moving from $75MM-plus over the cap in February 2021 to creating room for a Marcus Williams tag, however, shows how teams can go from cap hell to carving out tag space. That said, Brady’s $35.1MM hitting the cap pushes the Bucs past $50MM over the 2023 salary ceiling.
Dean, 26, has been one of the team’s top players. The former third-round pick grades as Pro Football Focus’ No. 11 overall cornerback from 2020-22. This still looks like an unlikely proposition, with the corner tag at $18.14MM, but it should not be considered completely off the table.
Tight ends Mike Gesicki, David Njoku and Dalton Schultz received tags in 2022, and the tight end tag again checking in as the third-cheapest ($11.36MM) this year makes the Jaguars keeping Engram off the market a logical step. The former Giants first-round pick broke through on his one-year Jags pact, filling a longstanding void for the franchise. Engram’s 766 receiving yards set a Jacksonville single-season tight end record. With mutual interest believed to exist, a tag as a bridge to a summer extension — ahead of Engram’s age-29 season — is a scenario to watch here.
The Eagles traded two Day 3 draft picks for Gardner-Johnson and moved him from corner to safety. After the ex-Saints slot defender led the NFL in interceptions, he will be in line for a payday. New Orleans and Gardner-Johnson, 25, could not come to terms last summer, leading to the trade, but Philadelphia wants to retain the imported DB. The Bengals kept Bates off the market last year with the safety tag, which checks in at $14.46MM this year. Given the volume of defenders the NFC champions have set for free agency, this looks like a longer-odds scenario.
Jones’ statistical production would not be in line with a tag. The talented defensive lineman has yet to surpass 6.5 sacks or 11 quarterback hits in a season, but the former third-round pick has offered consistency and earned praise from the front office. Following the Broncos’ decision to trade Bradley Chubb, GM George Paton identified Jones as a player the team wanted to keep. The advanced metrics also view Jones fondly; Pro Football Focus charts the former third-round pick in the top 20 for pressures since 2019. Jones is believed to be a higher priority compared to guard Dalton Risner, a fellow Denver free agent-to-be.
Sean Payton‘s team using a $19MM tag on a non-Pro Bowler would be risky during an offseason in which the draft capital-poor team — thanks to the Payton trade requiring a 2023 first-round pick — faces a key free agency stretch. Jones, 26, sticking around should also depend on whom the Broncos hire as defensive coordinator.
Buffalo defensive stalwarts Poyer and Tremaine Edmunds are ticketed for free agency, but with the NFL still grouping rush- and non-rush linebackers together under its tag formula, Edmunds is not a realistic tag candidate. The linebacker tag ($20.9MM) trails only the QB price. Poyer, 31, is coming off his first Pro Bowl season and has been one of the Bills’ steadiest players in the Sean McDermott era. Signed during McDermott’s first offseason, Poyer has inked two Bills contracts. He angled for a third, eventually agreeing to an incentive package, and became indispensable during a season in which the Bills lost Micah Hyde to a September neck injury and saw Damar Hamlin face one of the scariest health issues in NFL history in January.
Hamlin aims to return, while Hyde is under contract. But a Bills defense that has seen inconsistency at corner for years could still use Poyer. If the parties cannot strike a deal before March 7, the $14.5MM safety tag may not be too steep here. That said, the Bills may try to avoid a tag and save some free agency dough for Edmunds.
A $32.4MM quarterback tag does sound too steep for Smith, his Comeback Player of the Year award notwithstanding. The Seahawks traded Russell Wilson on March 8, 2022; they re-signed Smith to a one-year, $3.5MM deal on April 14. That low-cost, incentive-laden accord effectively illustrated the NFL’s view of the former second-rounder. While Smith’s stunning season upped his value tremendously, it still seems unlikely the franchise tag will come into play. A transition tag — worth $29.5MM and involving no draft compensation — would be a more logical move.
But the top tag has been floated as a Smith-Seattle scenario. The sides have begun negotiations, and Smith’s camp figures to factor the tag salaries into the talks. This process still feels like it will end in a Smith medium-term deal. But after a 30-touchdown pass season that also included an NFL-high 69.8% completion rate, the 32-year-old passer setting a high price as the tag deadline nears would force the team to consider cuffing its starter.
Contract talks between Geno Smith and the Seahawks have begun, and the quarterback is optimistic that the two sides will ultimately reach a deal. During an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio yesterday, Smith said the chances of an extension are “looking very good.”
“We’ve had talks and we’re in the process of getting all that settled right now,” Smith said (via ESPN’s Brady Henderson). “It’s looking very good. We think we can get some things done, but obviously those things take time. This is the process that I hate about the NFL because I just want to play football, but it’s a business as well, so we’ve got to take care of business and then we’ll get back to the football.”
Both sides have expressed optimism that they’d ultimately agree to an extension. As Henderson points out, head coach Pete Carroll has continually expressed his interest in bringing back Smith, but the head coach hasn’t gone as far as to declare it would happen…a factor that’s somewhat relevant when you consider that the Seahawks could always slap the impending free agent QB with the franchise tag.
Smith ended up making about $7MM this past season thanks to incentives. During a separate appearance on the The Pivot Podcast, the quarterback wouldn’t reveal what he’s specifically looking for in a new contract, just noting that he wants to be paid what he’s worth.
“I love Seattle,” Smith said. “We have a great relationship and I think we’ll work things out. When it comes to contracts, I think every player just wants to get paid his worth. And it’s funny because a great friend of mine tells me, no matter what check they write, it’ll never be your worth because your worth isn’t in money, it isn’t in monetary things. So you just want to be respected. Your contract just wants to say, we respect you, we understand what you bring to the table, we understand what caliber of player you are, and we appreciate you. That’s really all it comes down to.”
Smith had a breakout campaign during his age-32 season, resulting in his first career Pro Bowl nod. He helped guide the Seahawks to a 9-8 record while completing a league-leading 69.8 percent of his passes for 4,282 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
We heard recently that the Seahawks and quarterback Geno Smithhave started contract talks. While general manager John Schneider indicated that negotiations haven’t gotten serious, he did express optimism that the organization would ultimately re-sign the QB. During an appearance on “The Ian Furness Show” on Sports Radio 93.3 KJR, Schneider said the team expects to agree to a new deal with Smith (via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times).
“I met with Geno on his exit interview, and we had a great talk,” the GM said. “He knows what the process is going to be. We’d love to have him back. He knows that. Like you said, he’d love to be back here as well.
“In terms of getting it done, it’s a process. Hope to get started here pretty quick. We have a little time here to kind of evaluate our team and get settled in. … We’ll get to it as soon as we can and try to do what’s best for Geno and try to do what’s best for the organization.”
Smith played out the 2022 season on a one-year, $3.5MM contract; incentives allowed him to double his earnings for the year. He will significantly outpace that figure on a new contract following a breakout campaign that saw him earn first career Pro Bowl nod.
More notes out of Seattle:
Smith isn’t the only Seahawks quarterback that’s set to hit free agency, as Drew Lock‘s contract will also expire. While the trade acquisition had to settle in as a backup during his first season with the organization, Schneider said the front office is still interested in bringing him back. “Yeah we’d love to,” Schnieder said during his radio appearance (via Condotta). “We think that’d be the ideal situation.”
The Seahawks recently signed kicker Jason Myers to a contract extension, and ESPN’s Brady Henderson passed along some details on the new pact (via Twitter). The four-year, $21.1MM deal includes a $7.5MM signing bonus and can max out at $22.6MM. The veteran will earn a fully guaranteed $1.165MM base salary in 2023, an injury-guaranteed $3.635MM in 2024 (becomes full guarantee on fifth day of 2024 league year), and non-guaranteed base salaries of $4.2MM in 2025 and $4.6MM in 2026.
Henderson tweeted out some helpful insight in anticipation of the Seahawks’ offseason. While many publications show that Seattle owns nine draft picks in the upcoming draft, Henderson notes that the organization actually has 10 selections. The confusion stems from last year’s John Reid trade, with the reporter noting that the Seahawks ultimately didn’t have to give up a seventh-round pick in the deal.
Three Seahawks players were named as finalists for key Associated Press awards. Smith is a finalist for Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year, while running back Kenneth Walker III and cornerback Tariq Woolen were finalists for AP Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year (respectively).
The Seahawks enjoyed a surprising level of success this season, with their transition to Geno Smithunder center leading to a postseason berth and massively boosting the veteran’s free agent value. Both parties have already begun the process of negotiating a new contract which will keep him in Seattle.
Head coach Pete Carroll confirmed that “preliminary talks” have been held between the Seahawks and Smith. The latter won out the team’s preseason QB competition (something he was not expected to do), and wound up playing every snap of the season en route to a Pro Bowl nod and multiple franchise passing records. His performance in Seattle’s Wild-Card loss to San Francisco – in which he committed two turnovers – did not dissuade the team from attempting to keep him in 2023 and beyond.
“He had an excellent game for us in that game,” Carroll said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “And even though the turnovers happened… he played really well just to show you again that he’s on it and we got our guy. We need to hopefully work things out so he’s with us… There’s business to be done there, of course. But there’s really no lid to what we can do. The sky’s the limit. That, along with returning him with his leadership factor that he had, he’s a big deal to us, and I just couldn’t be more tickled by the way the whole thing turned out and how he handled it. And really as we look to the future, he’s a big part of why we look to the future more promisingly.”
Smith played out the 2022 season on a one-year, $3.5MM contract; incentives allowed him to double his earnings for the year. He will significantly outpace that figure on a new contract of any kind this offseason, though his uninspiring stint as a starter with the Jets, and the years spent strictly as a backup which followed, make the 32-year-old an interesting case study. Seattle also has the option of using the franchise tag to keep in him place on a one-year deal (or at least extend the window to continue negotiations into July).
Talks between the sides come against the backdrop of backup Drew Lockalso heading into free agency. The former Broncos second-rounder was expected to win the summer QB competition, but wound up sitting the entire campaign due to Smith’s success. Carroll doubled down on his compliments of Lock, repeating that he hopes to have the 26-year-old back in the Emerald City next year.
By virtue of the Russell Wilsontrade, however, Seattle owns the fifth overall pick in the upcoming draft. That could provide the team with an opportunity to land a long-term answer at the position, something which may be less likely now than it would have seemed before the campaign. Carroll nevertheless called this year’s class of passers “extraordinary” and acknowledged the rarity of having the draft capital the team currently does as it relates to drafting franchise QBs.
Regardless of the Seahawks’ plans down the road, their ability to keep Smith under contract for at least 2023 is shaping up to be their top offseason priority. Their success in the negotiations to come will likely dictate their other moves in free agency and the draft.
With the Seahawks’ season now over, attention will turn away from the team’s surprising trip to the playoffs and towards an offseason filled with questions at the quarterback position. Geno Smithplayed his way into a significant raise in 2023, but whether he will remain in Seattle will be a key storyline.
Smith, 32, flamed out as the Jets’ starter after two seasons in New York. That span was followed by six straight campaigns spent as a backup, the role he was expected to remain in for the duration of his NFL career. His play while briefly filling in for Russell Wilsonin 2021 made it unsurprising that he was brought back on a one-year deal this past offseason, but the base value of that contract ($3.5MM) made the team’s intentions clear.
It was former Bronco Drew Lock– part of the package Denver sent Seattle in the blockbuster Wilson trade – who was expected to earn the No. 1 spot over the course of the summer. Instead, Smith won out the training camp competition, and quickly rewarded the Seahawks for putting their trust in him. By Week 6, it was reported that a full-time commitment to the West Virginia alum could be in the cards.
Smith generally continued his impressive play throughout the season, one in which the Seahawks were able to clinch the NFC’s final playoff spot during Week 18 despite expectations being tempered considerably in the wake of Wilson’s (and All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner’s) absence. Smith led the league in completion percentage (69.8%), throwing for a franchise-record 4,282 yards along the way. His performance earned him a Pro Bowl nod and allowed him to double his earnings through incentives. That $7MM price tag will surely be comfortably exceeded in free agency – something the veteran is acutely aware of.
“Football is a business,” Smith said prior to today’s 41-23 loss to the 49ers, via ESPN’s Brady Henderson. “A lot of people have a lot of decisions to make, and that’s where I’ll leave it at. I feel great about where I stand with this organization and my teammates and everybody else, but it’s always a business first. So I look at it like that. I understand that, and I’ve got to handle my business as well.”
The Seahawks currently rank in the top-five in the league in terms of 2023 cap space after transitioning to a younger core at most positions. That has them well-positioned to absorb a new deal for Smith carrying a significant raise, but it could also pave the way for a contract keeping Lock in the Emerald City for the short- or medium-term future. Head coach Pete Carroll routinely praised the 26-year-old upon his arrival, despite his underwhelming tenure with the Broncos. Lock is also a pending UFA, though his market will be clouded by having sat as Smith’s backup all season.
In any event, the Seahawks have reportedly been convinced by Smith’s performance to commit to him on a new contract. An alternative, especially in light of his unique rise back to a starter’s role after years as a No. 2, could be a franchise or transition tag, which Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network confirms is a real possibility (video link). Where Smith’s next deal comes from – and what form it takes – will certainly be worth watching over the coming weeks.
For what it’s worth, Smith himself said after the ‘Hawks wildcard round loss to the 49ers that he wants to finish his career in Seattle and that he expects to be back with the team in 2023 (via Henderson).
December 30th, 2022 at 10:47am CST by Sam Robinson
As we head into Week 17, a number of players still have key incentives available. Here is a handful of the notable escalators in reach — many involving Smiths — courtesy of SI.com’s Albert Breer.
Justin Houston, OLB (Ravens): Already collecting $1MM by reaching 7.5 sacks, the 12th-year pass rusher (nine sacks) can move that number to $1.5MM by getting to 10.
Christian Kirk, WR (Jaguars): The big-ticket Jags signing can collect $500K by hitting 80 receptions, with another $500K available if he reaches 90. Kirk has 76 catches. The ex-Cardinal (988 receiving yards) can also collect $1MM by surpassing 1,100.
Raheem Mostert, RB (Dolphins): The offseason addition will almost certainly add $1MM to his 2022 earnings. By clearing 900 scrimmage yards, Mostert needs only the Dolphins to stay in the top 25 in total offense. Considering Miami ranks ninth, it is a good bet the ex-49er — who signed for one year and $2.2MM — will cash in.
Geno Smith, QB (Seahawks): After already collecting $1MM for hitting playing-time incentives and $500K by making the Pro Bowl, Smith is likely to add another $1MM by eclipsing 4,000 passing yards for the first time. Smith, who signed for one year and $3.5MM, has 3,886 yards through 15 games.
Preston Smith, OLB (Packers): Sitting on 8.5 sacks, the veteran edge rusher can collect $1MM by ballooning that number to 10. Another $1MM would be in play for Smith if he reached 12 sacks this season.
Za’Darius Smith, OLB (Vikings): The 2022 Minnesota signee can up his incentive package to either $750K by hitting 10.5 sacks or $1MM by reaching 12.5. The veteran edge has 10 sacks through 15 games.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR (Chiefs): Leading Chiefs wideouts in receiving yards (877) by a wide margin, Smith-Schuster is likely to enhance his already-impressive incentive collection by topping 900 receiving yards. That would put the ex-Steeler at $3MM in total incentives earned. Signing a one-year deal worth $3.76MM, Smith-Schuster has already collected $2.5MM in escalators.
J.J. Watt, DL (Cardinals): Lastly, the retiring D-lineman collected $900K by reaching nine sacks (9.5); he can bump that number to $1MM by tallying a 10th sack over the team’s final two games.
While nothing is certain yet, the Cardinals may be on the lookout for a new GM for the first time in 10 years. Steve Keim took a leave of absence earlier this month and, as of now, is not expected to be back. The Cardinals may be considering keeping their current setup — a dual-GM partnership between Adrian Wilson and Quentin Harris — on a permanent basis, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Arizona has promoted from within to fill its GM post the past two times it opened, elevating Rod Graves in 2003 and then Keim in 2013. Bob Ferguson (1996) represents the franchise’s past outside hire for this post.
Wilson and Harris each played safety with the Cardinals, being teammates from 2002-05, and have worked in the front office for several years. Harris, the team’s VP of player personnel, has been on staff longer — since 2008, when he became a scout — while Wilson, the VP of pro personnel, enjoyed a much longer playing career. Wilson has been a Cards staffer since 2015. Harris interviewed for the Giants’ GM gig this year; Wilson interviewed with the Jaguars. Whomever lands the Arizona GM job will have some pieces to pick up after a turbulent year, and a coaching search could commence.
Here is the latest from the NFC West:
When the Seahawks acquired Drew Lock from the Broncos, the front office viewed him as the likely starter, Brady Henderson of ESPN.com notes. Believing they knew what they had in Geno Smith, Russell Wilson‘s backup for three seasons, the Seahawks were planning on Lock taking over. Smith’s contract — one year, $3.5MM — reflects this plan, but Pete Carroll consistently kept the former Jets second-rounder in front of Lock. While the Seahawks have faded since a surprising start, Smith made one the more unlikely Pro Bowl runs in recent QB history. The Seahawks want to re-sign him to a long-term deal.
Kliff Kingsbury said the Cardinals did not know about J.J. Watt‘s retirement decision beforehand. The Cardinals signed the three-time Defensive Player of the Year to a two-year, $28MM deal in 2021. Despite Watt suffering another significant injury last season, he rebounded to re-emerge as one of the league’s top D-linemen this year. Watt will pass on a chance to join a contender in free agency next year, and it appears a near-lock he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2028.
Colt McCoy cleared concussion protocol and will start for the Cardinals in Week 17, Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com tweets. Arizona faces Atlanta and San Francisco to close out its season. McCoy is signed to a two-year, $7.5MM deal.
Brock Purdy has stepped in and kept the 49ers on course. Prior to Jimmy Garoppolo‘s injury, the team was open to re-signing him. Now, the prospect of Purdy keeping the gig over Trey Lance in 2023 is starting to surface. An anonymous exec told the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora he is growing more convinced the 49ers will trade Lance and stick with this year’s Mr. Irrelevant. With Lance on a rookie contract through 2024, that would be a wild call — even given Purdy’s early form. But teams would figure to be interested in the former No. 3 overall pick — even if he has only played one full season in his five since high school.
Although the Rams tried to trade Cam Akers, they have turned back to him as their top running back. They should be expected to retain him in 2023, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Akers’ career path changed when he tore an Achilles’ tendon in July 2021, but he totaled 147 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns Sunday. Next season will be a contract year for the former second-round pick.
Weeks after the Cardinalsfired their offensive line coach, Sean Kugler, the dismissed assistant said he did not grope a female security guard in Mexico. Kugler is taking legal action against the Cardinals, whom he contends did not conduct a thorough investigation. The team released a statement (via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, on Twitter) conveying confidence the firing was for cause. Kugler worked for the Cardinals from 2019 until his November firing.