Despite a circuitous career path that included seven seasons as a backup, Geno Smith said he had “no doubt” he’d end up in his current position as a Pro Bowl quarterback with a rich new contract.
As Smith spoke with reporters Thursday at a news conference celebrating his three-year, $75 million contract to remain with the Seattle Seahawks, he said that confidence is the reason he was comfortable betting on himself with such an incentive-laden deal.
NFL Network reports that the deal includes $30 million in incentives, which would bring the maximum value to $105 million.
“I just believe in my ability,” said Smith, who was flanked by coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider in the auditorium at Seahawks headquarters. “I believe that with the guys around me, with the coaches that we have … I think the future is very bright for us. So with the contract and the incentives it’s just a way obviously for both parties to make it work. It allows the team room and space to do what they need to do but it also gives me an opportunity to be one of the top-10-paid quarterbacks, which is something that I believe that I am.
“So with all those things I think it worked out pretty great.”
It’s not clear which metric Smith meant when he said his new deal gives him the chance to be one of the 10 highest-paid quarterbacks. An annual average of $35 million would tie Kirk Cousins for 11th, though that’s behind the deals for Daniel Jones ($40 million APY) and Derek Carr ($37.5 million APY) that were signed within the past week, well after Smith and the Seahawks began negotiations.
Smith finished sixth in the NFL in QBR and first in completion rate while breaking several club passing records set by Russell Wilson over 16-game seasons. Smith earned a Pro Bowl nod and was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. But he said the same thing about his new payday that he said all season about his resurgence, that it doesn’t bring him any validation.
“Shoot, man, I hate to make this a dull moment, but no,” he said. “Honestly, man, I just love playing football. I hate when people kind of look at my story and say, ‘You went from this to that.’ Man, I was in the league with the best players for 10 years amongst some of the best coaches and getting paid good money and I’ve always done well by it. So I’ve always appreciated just the opportunity, I know how valuable that is, so for me the validation comes from my teammates, my coaches and just being around this building, this organization.”
Smith said he hopes the path he took to his new deal is “an inspiration to everyone.”
“Just to continue to believe in yourself, to work hard, to never waver in your confidence and then to be opportunistic,” he said. “When you get an opportunity you’ve got to run with it. I believe hopefully everyone can see that when they see me.”
Schneider thanked Smith’s agent, Chafie Fields, for his professionalism in negotiations and said it’s “huge” to get the deal done well ahead of next week’s start of free agency. Smith said he wasn’t tempted to test the market.
“I wanted to stay here,” he said. “I was hoping we could get something done quickly. I didn’t want to have to test the free agent market. Obviously, if I had to then I had to. But I think everybody did a great job of making this work and now it’s about having it pay off in the future.”
Carroll and Schneider have both indicated that re-signing Smith won’t necessarily preclude the Seahawks from drafting a quarterback. Smith is currently the only one they have under contract for 2023, with Drew Lock scheduled to become a free agent. Seattle owns the fifth and 20th overall picks as well as two second-rounders.
Smith was asked whether he’d view it as competition or a mentorship opportunity if Seattle were to draft a quarterback.
“I’d say it’s both,” Smith answered. “I love to compete, so I’ll compete with anybody. But I’m also going to help him out as much as I can, the same as we did with Drew. Our QB room was so tight-knit and we’re all so connected that we act as one, so whether it’s a young guy or someone else I’m going to help that player, just like any other player on our team, be the best that he can be because that’s my job as a leader and that’s who I am at heart. I’m never going to withhold information. I’m always going to try to help guys get better. That’s what I want to do and if that happens, then that’s the guy I’ll be.”