INDIANAPOLIS—One of the Seahawks' priorities this offseason is trying to re-sign Geno Smith, who after a Pro-Bowl season is set to become a free agent when the new league year begins next month if the two sides don't agree on an extension before then.
The Seahawks are also spending this offseason looking long and hard at the quarterback class coming out in this year's draft, and given the Seahawks' draft capital that includes the No. 5 and 20 overall picks, as well as two second-rounders, the Seahawks could be in great position to add a quality quarterback via the draft.
And what was clear listening to general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine is that the Seahawks don't necessarily see re-signing Smith and selecting a quarterback early in the draft as mutually exclusive options.
"We are totally connected to the quarterbacks that are coming out," Carroll said. "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 at these guys. We are deeply involved with all that."
Or as Schneider put it, the Seahawks would consider a quarterback in the first round, even after signing Smith, "Because they don't grow on trees. It's very hard. It's probably the hardest position to acquire a talent, a guy that everybody feels very confident in."
In other words, it's really difficult to find elite quarterbacks in the NFL, and it's even harder if, as has been the case for the Seahawks, you almost never pick near the top of the first round. But thanks to the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver, the Seahawks have a Top 5 pick for the first time under Carroll and Schneider, so if they really think a quarterback is worth of that pick, they'd strongly consider it even if they also re-sign Smith.
As for the ongoing negotiations with Smith, Schneider said, "I would say positive" when asked to characterize things.
"All these negotiations, some go a little bit faster than others," he said. "Usually when you're talking about larger numbers, they take a little bit more time."
Said Carroll, "We're working it, the back and forth is all ongoing. How's it going? I think it's going to go the right direction. We've got to get it done."
Asked if the sides were close, Carroll said, "We're going back and forth, so we're on it. This is a serious time of it, and we'll see how it works out. There's a lot going on along with that, too that plays into all of this, so we just got to figure it out."
Carroll later added, "We're talking intimately about all the stuff that's going on. Everything's going well. So that's why, 'How's it going?' It's going well. But it hasn't happened yet and there's still some distance in there, so we got to work it out."
Carroll and Schneider's comments about Smith also made it clear that, even if they are looking hard at this year's draft class, they're also big fans of Smith both as a player and as a person.
"This was really an incredible experience with a young guy that did some amazing things," Carroll said. "It's such a good story and it's just a real story, it really happened right before our eyes, a guy that kind of got knocked around and kind of got lost in the shuffle after a while, we fell in love with Geno way back years ago because of his competitiveness and he's a terrific athlete as well, and as we just kind of grew along with him, and he stayed with us and each year, we'd have to go back and do another contract, we're doing one-year deals after another—the connection just stayed true throughout, so there's a lot invested in Geno, and Geno's invested lot in us.
"Then when the time comes when he finally gets a chance to play, and really in the Jacksonville game a year ago when he really rocked and came out and completed 15 out of 15 or something, looked like what he looked like this year after a couple games of kind of knocking the rust off -- we had an inkling that there was something really special there, but we didn't know. We really didn't know and didn't know if he could sustain because he hadn't had the opportunity to do that, so all of that combined, and then the way he handled it with such class, character, makeup and competitiveness and, you know, beautiful come-through and athleticism, all that stuff is all part of the story. I think my favorite part of is though is how he handled it, that he was able to take this moment and capture it and he opened up to the club in terms of his leadership opportunities, and it was almost impeccably handled, orchestrated right out of the book—exactly how you'd like it to be. So it was really fascinating to see and thrilling to be a part of it and hopefully, we're working hard to keep it going."
Said Schneider, "He's such a cool guy. I know you guys have probably spent a lot of time with him, and we had conversations about NFL Europe and what that used to look like—because he just wanted an opportunity—and the Brad Johnsons and the Kurt Warners and J.T. O'Sullivan, and Marc Bulger, all those guys that got to play in that league. And then having a conversation about, 'Man, do I get some reps in the CFL? Where do I get my reps?' And then he finally gets his reps in 2021, and he did a nice job. And then he comes back this last year, a ton of confidence. Shoot, I know I've read something where he was talking about being a head coach. We've had those conversations too, so I could see that too. He's just a really, really unique individual and a great, great story. Awesome story for the Seahawks, obviously, and a great story for young people all around the country. What an inspiration just to pull through like that."