Geno Smith’s three-year, $105 million deal is the latest step in a remarkable journey

If you listened to Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider at the Scouting Combine last week, you probably knew it was coming.

That said, if you know Geno Smith’s story, and even if you’ve seen his remarkable 2022 season in which he won Comeback Player of the Year, you might still be surprised by Monday’s news that Smith has signed a new three-year deal signed for $105 million to become Seattle’s franchise quarterback.

Because none of this was guaranteed. After the Seahawks sold Russell Wilson to the Broncos in March in exchange for quarterback Drew Lock along with two other players and a slew of draft picks, Smith was only told that he would have the opportunity to compete with Lock for the starting job in the 2022 pre-season.

That was it. No guarantees for a man who has disappointed and been disappointed at every stop of his NFL journey before this one.

But Smith took it by the horns, won the job and radically exceeded all expectations but his own in a season in which he completed 424 of 607 passes for 4,535 yards, 32 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a 100.8 passer rating. He ranked ninth in Football Outsiders’ season-cumulative DYAR metric among qualified quarterbacks and 12th in FO’s DVOA per game metric, having never finished higher than 30th in either before.

Smith was selected from West Virginia in the second round of the 2013 draft and had two passable seasons as Gang Green’s starter before things began to fall apart.

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In August 2015, Smith was involved in an altercation with Jets defensive end IK Enemkpali that prevented Smith from starting the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick started this season strong, so new head coach Todd Bowles decided to keep Fitzpatrick in the role, even with Smith returning.

Smith didn’t get his next legitimate chance to start for the Jets until Week 7 of the 2016 season against the Baltimore Ravens. He tore his cruciate ligament that game, was lost for the rest of the season, and that was the end of his time with the Jets.

Smith signed with the New York Giants ahead of the 2017 season and outside of an odd period when he briefly replaced Eli Manning as the team’s starter (this made him the first black quarterback to start for the Giants and it meant that everyone The NFL team finally had a black starting quarterback at some point in its history), he seemed doomed to the backup role forever. That spanned his time with the San Diego Chargers in 2018, when he completed a pass on four attempts for eight yards.

Smith then signed with the Seahawks ahead of the 2019 season, competing with Paxton Lynch for the job of backup behind Russell Wilson. He was actually fired and re-signed at some point and didn’t take a single snap with Seattle that season. He completed four of five passes for 33 yards in the 2020 season and eventually got his first chances as a starter when Wilson suffered a finger injury in 2021. He then completed 65 of 95 passes for 702 yards, five touchdowns, one interception, and a 103.0 passer rating.

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Behind the scenes, Smith had become a whole different and better quarterback with no guarantee it would ever pay off.

But by the end of that season, he had firmly established himself as the team’s leader. Smith knew, all the players knew, and Carroll and Schneider knew. The only question was what to do now – take a chance on the open market and let Smith test the waters, or tie him to the contract he finally deserved?

The answer, like last week’s combine harvester, was crystal clear.

“It’s a great story now,” Carroll said when asked why so many other quarterbacks who see the bad side of Smith’s story never see the bright side. “There are other guys who can do the same thing. They get lost and they’re out of the league and you don’t see him again, there’s so many quarterbacks. We’re looking at the success rate of the incoming quarterbacks and the first rounders and all that. It’s a shocking realization how many guys don’t make it. Who is to say that? You know some of these guys make it through 4th or 5th or 6th grade and they’re connected to the club, you knew they had enough skills but you just couldn’t bring it to life that maybe we gave up have boys too soon. Some of them are themselves. You need to maintain that connection to belief in yourself.

“Geno was a remarkable example of this. He never wavered. And he expected to win the job, he expected to compete, he expected to succeed, he expected to be where he is now. That’s all part of it. That’s the mental side he brought with him. I’m not saying everyone will be like Geno. But that opportunity is certainly there. I think it’s important.”

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It matters, and now Smith has earned his just reward for proving every single doubter wrong.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire


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