Geno Smith validated Seattle's confidence in him in 2022, and the Seahawks responded in kind with a three-year extension worth $105 million.
However, that doesn't mean Seattle won't consider taking a quarterback in the 2023 draft. Smith is, after all, only signed through 2025 and turns 33 in October. He's not exactly on the cusp of his prime.
Smith is aware of this reality and is prepared to embrace the arrival of another quarterback, should general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll decide to select one with a first-round pick.
"I love to compete, so I'll compete with anybody," Smith said. "I'm also gonna help him out as much as I can, same as we did with Drew (Lock). And our QB room is so tight-knit. We're so connected that we act as one. And so whether it's a young guy or someone else, I'm gonna 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 gonna withhold information. I'm always gonna try to help guys get better. So, that's what I want to do, and if that happens, that's the guy I'll be."
Smith proved to be a consummate pro in 2022, accepting the fact he'd have to compete with Lock to replace the departed Russell Wilson, and winning that battle over the new arrival who many believed would be penciled in as Seattle's new starter. Smith was only getting started by emerging victorious, too, putting together a career year in which he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 4,282 yards and a 30-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio, helping Seattle reach the playoffs in a season in which most everyone expected the Seahawks to finish in last place.
Seattle's decision to commit to Smith -- and reward him for his efforts -- forced the veteran to reflect on the long, winding road he traveled to this point. He acknowledged he likely wouldn't have gotten here without the direction of Carroll, an optimistic and energetic coach who has powered teams to great success at the collegiate and professional levels.
"Incredible journey, I believe," Smith said Thursday. "Thinking about the draft, and I had to sit and wait. And then, you know, went to the Jets and things didn't work out. Had to bounce team to team and try to find my way. And then I found this place and it kind of changed me. Coach Carroll being so uplifting, so inspiring, he just forced me to believe more in myself. And that in turn kind of brought us here today. That entire journey, the 10 years that it took for me just to get to this point, means a lot. That's the most rewarding part, is that I was able to go through that and then be able to say, hey, even with all that I was still able to get better and still becoming a better player. And to get to this point is just incredibly fulfilling."
The extension stands as a high-water mark for Smith in his career, at least to this point. It's also a bit of a unique situation, given the fact he's not a player who is just getting his feet wet in the NFL. That didn't dissuade Schneider from rewarding Smith, though, and when he spoke Thursday, he admitted Seattle wanted to both maximize Smith's earning potential and position the Seahawks for long-term success, which could or couldn't include him three or four years from now.
Instead of holding firm on a future with Smith as a focal point in Seattle, Smith opted to give the Seahawks organizational flexibility, which helps bring sense to why he isn't resisting the idea of Seattle adding a rookie at the position.
"Extremely important. I believe in team," Smith said. "I know how important it is for everyone to have an opportunity. So, I trust these guys. I understand that these guys are building a championship team, and that's what we're about here. I really wanted to be a part of that, and I'm just happy that we were able to find common ground that was balanced and worked for everyone."
Smith received an instant pay raise and a vote of confidence from the organization that fits what he produced in 2022. Seattle didn't lock itself into a deal that might look unwise a few years from now, especially if the Seahawks are able to land a future star under center in April. And ultimately, Seattle can't help but be happy about where it stands, especially given the club's outlook following the trade that sent Wilson to Denver.
"I think that the job that John (Schneider) and his guys have done to carry this thing from those moments that led to the decision to make the trade and all that, and then all the way through, has just been a masterful job," Carroll said. "You can't not recognize that. And all of the fruits are still out there. We're heading into the draft, you know, with free agency leading into it. It's just given us such an opening to the opportunity. And so grateful for all the years, John, that we've worked together.
"But this is really, it's a high moment for us. We're all having fun with it. We're all having a blast. We can't wait for this thing to happen. And the scenarios and all the stuff and all that we're talking about, John's really taken a great leadership role in all of that. It's an awesome illustration. So we're really grateful for that."