Now that the 2022 NFL season is over, it's time to look ahead to an offseason that will help shape the Seahawks' fortunes in 2023 and beyond. With free agency kicking off next month and the draft following in April, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where the team stands prior to the start of the new league year. Today we kick things off with quarterback, and tomorrow we'll turn our attention to safety.
Last offseason brought one of the biggest trades in Seahawks history, with Seattle sending Russell Wilson to the Broncos for three players and multiple first and second-round picks, including what ended up being the No. 5 overall pick in this year's draft. And with that move, the Seahawks had uncertainty at quarterback heading into training camp for the first time since Wilson won the starting job as a rookie in 2012.
Geno Smith, who had spent the previous seven seasons as a backup, including three years in Seattle behind Wilson, opened camp in a competition with Drew Lock, a player acquired in the trade, and Smith eventually was able to win the job.
Smith winning the job wasn't a big surprise, but what he did with the opportunity shocked just about everyone other than the quarterback himself. In his first year as a starter since 2014, Smith got off to a fast start to help put the Seahawks in playoff contention, and he finished the year leading the NFL in completion percentage (69.8), finishing in the top five in touchdown passes (30) and passer rating (100.9), and setting franchise records for completion percentage, passing yards (4,282), completions (399) and pass attempts (572) as the Seahawks went 9-8 to earn a Wild Card playoff berth. Last week, he was named the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.
"He's for real," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after Seattle's playoff loss to the 49ers. "Geno is the real deal. He can do all of the things that a terrific quarterback does. His movement was probably more of a surprise that he was so efficient with his movement—he could always throw it. His ability to stay poised and calm throughout the season, throughout the year—with all of the hype and the buildup, he could have gone south five different times, and he never did. He never wavered. His leadership really stood out. His voice in the locker room, his voice with our players, he said the right stuff all year, right up to today. It's a great story. It's a great story for a lot of players, in other sports, wherever you want to go, if you keep hanging in there and you believe in yourself, and you don't let the messaging outside of you affect who you are and what you are, you'll find your best. I think Geno has found his best, and he's ready to come back and go again. I thought he had just an unbelievably great season for us."
Smith played every offensive snap in 2022, so the Seahawks didn't get to see Lock in regular-season action, but the former Broncos second-round pick did make a good impression in practice.
Question to answer this offseason: Will the Comeback Player of the Year come back to Seattle in 2023?
We might as well kick off this offseason primer series with the biggest question of Seattle's offseason: will Smith be re-signed?
Smith, who re-signed with the Seahawks last offseason, was on a one-year deal during his breakout season, meaning he is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins next month unless he and the Seahawks agree to a new deal, or unless the Seahawks use the franchise tag.
Carroll and general manager John Schneider have both stated this offseason that their hope is to bring Smith back, and Smith too is hoping for that outcome, but there is still the business side of things to sort out in order for Smith to be the team's quarterback in 2023 and beyond.
"I want to finish my career in Seattle. I want to be here," Smith said after Seattle's playoff loss. "The town, the city, the team, Coach Carroll, the organization, they all embraced me. I was a guy who probably could have been out of the league. They embraced me, and I want to repay them for that.
"I felt like Coach Carroll and the organization, they embraced me at a time when not many people were. That means a lot to me. I've got a lot of loyalty in me, and I want to repay those guys for doing that."
Said Carroll, "We've got our guy. We need to hopefully work things out so he is with us; there is business to be done there, of course, but there is no lid on 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. I just couldn't be more tickled by the way the whole thing turned out and how he handled it. Really, as we look to the future, he is a big part of why we are looking to the future so promisingly."
With a lot of draft capital, including four picks in the first two rounds, the Seahawks have the ability to address quarterback, whether or not they re-sign Smith, but heading into the draft with some clarity on Smith's future would help shape the rest of Seattle's offseason. And the Seahawks will also have to make a decision on the future of Drew Lock, who is also set to become a free agent next month. While he wasn't able to overtake Smith in last year's competition, the Seahawks did like what they saw out of Lock, so he very well could be brought back if the two sides can agree to a deal.
Biggest reason for optimism in 2023: Smith's breakout play looks sustainable.
As much as Smith's 2022 season caught a lot of people off guard, his teammates weren't surprised, and that's because they watched Smith in practice for the past three seasons. And what they saw in practice, usually against the No. 1 defense, was the elite arm talent that the rest of the NFL finally got to see on display in 2022.
As Smith put it during the season, if you were surprised by his play, it was “because you never watched me throw.” And from the accuracy to the decision making to the ability to make plays with his legs, nothing about Smith's 2022 season felt fluky. If anything, Smith would contend he should only be better in 2023 seeing as last year was his first as a starter in nearly a decade. So even though there isn't a lot of precedent for a quarterback to play at a Pro Bowl level after seven seasons as a backup, what Smith did in 2022 very much looks repeatable if the Seahawks are able to bring him back.
And while Plan A is to have Smith back, should things not work out there for some reason, the Seahawks would head into 2023 feeling good about their ability to help a new quarterback thrive in their system. As Carroll detailed prior to naming a starter last summer, his goal is to build a team and a system that helps make the most difficult position in the game at least a little bit easier for his quarterback. And while Smith deserves all the credit in the world for what he did in 2022, Carroll, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and the rest of the coaching staff also helped put Smith and the offense in a good position to succeed after moving on from a 10-year starter. With two first round picks and a decent amount of salary cap space, the Seahawks would be in good position to address the position should Smith not re-sign, though again, the preference would definitely be to bring him back.
Take a look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith from the 2022 season.