Geno Smith finally got the payday and recognition that had eluded him for most of his career.
His response? Getting back to work even while he was being feted by the Seattle Seahawks in a way Smith had never experienced in his time as a pro.
"The contract is fulfilling, but I just love playing football,” Smith said Thursday after signing his new three-year deal with the Seahawks.
The AP NFL comeback player of the year last season, Smith parlayed the best year of his pro career into a payday that he believes compensates him fairly while leaving Seattle with the flexibility to fill some needs in free agency.
Smith’s deal is worth up to $105 million including all the incentives. But its base value gives general manager John Schneider some wiggle room.
“It’s just a way for both parties to make it work,” Smith said. “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 I am.”
Smith was one of the feel-good stories in the league after getting an opportunity to start after nearly a decade as a backup and it changed the trajectory of his career. Smith led the Seahawks to a 9-8 record and a playoff berth as the last wild card in the NFC as he stepped into a starter's role following the trade of Russell Wilson to Denver.
Smith threw for 4,282 yards, a career high and a franchise record. He threw 30 touchdown passes and just 11 interceptions, completed 399 passes and led the NFL in completion percentage at 69.8%.
“There’s a lot of years when Geno had to sit there and wait,” coach Pete Carroll said. “The story that has been unveiled about believing in yourself and confidence and trust and never giving up, it’s a vivid illustration for (Geno) and it’s been so much fun to see this happen.”
Smith’s comeback season included a Pro Bowl selection and even a vote for MVP. When he won the starting job with the Seahawks, beating out Drew Lock for the nod, Smith was derided as being one of the worst starters in the league.
But he quieted those critics, especially in the first half of the season when Seattle surprisingly surged to the top of the NFC West. And while Smith and the Seahawks regressed later in the season and sneaked into the playoffs on the final day, the overall performance was strong enough for Seattle to move ahead with Smith.
For Schneider, getting Smith’s deal done before the start of free agency was key.
“We have an order of events and Geno knew he was first and foremost,” Schneider said.
Smith acknowledged the future may bring some changes.
Seattle owns the No. 5 pick in next month’s draft and there's been plenty of speculation that the Seahawks could use that pick – or any of their early-round picks – on another quarterback.
Smith said he would welcome the chance to compete and mentor a young QB.
“I love to compete, so I’ll compete with anybody,” Smith said. “But I’m also going to help them out as much as I can. ... Our QB room is so tightknit and we’re all so connected that we act as one. So whether it’s a young guy or someone else, I want 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.”
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