SEATTLE -- If Geno Smith has a strong enough encore to his Comeback Player of the Year season, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback can earn significantly more than the $25 million per year base value of his three-year, $75 million contract.
If not, it could end up being a one-year deal for $27.3 million.
Those are the two biggest takeaways now that the full details have emerged, revealing plenty of realistic upside for Smith and just as much flexibility for the Seahawks, thanks to his $10.1 million cap number for 2023 and no fully guaranteed money beyond the first year of the deal. Indeed, Smith is “gambling a little bit … on himself,” as coach Pete Carroll put it last week.
The team-friendly structure of his contract suggests the Seahawks could still spend an early pick on a quarterback. And while nothing about Smith’s play looked unsustainable during his 2022 Pro Bowl season, Seattle could conceivably move on from him next year if he were to regress.
The initial reports Smith was signing for $105 million were including the $30 million in additional money he can make beyond the $75 million base value. Smith gets $40 million in overall guarantees, of which $27.3 million is fully guaranteed at signing. That’s via a $26.1 million signing bonus and a $1.2 million base salary for 2023 that’s immediately guaranteed for skill, injury and cap. A $12.7 million base salary for 2024, guaranteed for injury at time of signing, makes up the remainder of the $40 million.
While that follows the standard guarantee structure for big-money Seahawks contracts, the escalating roster bonuses in Smith’s deal are exceedingly rare if not unique.
Smith’s roster bonuses are worth $9.6 million in 2024 and $10 million in 2025. Each is due on the fifth day of their respective league year, which begins with the start of free agency in mid-March, provided Smith is on Seattle’s roster on that date. Each roster bonus can increase by up to $15 million based on performance escalators from the season before, which make up the additional $30 million available in the deal.
Smith can increase his roster bonus for the following year by $2 million for each of these categories in which he matches or surpasses his 2022 production: passing yards (4,282), touchdown passes (30), completion rate (69.755%) and passer rating (100.874). There’s another $2 million available if Seattle makes the playoffs or wins at least 10 regular-season games, provided Smith plays at least 80% of the offensive snaps. If Smith hits all five benchmarks and the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl, his following season’s roster bonus increases by another $5 million.
These are different than incentive bonuses like the $3.5 million that Smith earned last season on his one-year deal. It’s a key distinction, because whereas Smith was assured of getting that money the moment he reached the benchmarks for those incentives, he would have to remain on Seattle’s roster past the due date for his bonus in order to cash in on whatever escalators he hits in 2023 and ’24.
"I just believe in my ability," Smith said last week, when asked about why he’s comfortable betting on himself with such a contract structure. "I believe that with the guys around me, with the coaches that we have ... I think the future is very bright for us. So with the contract and the incentives it's just a way obviously for both parties to make it work. 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 that I am.
"So with all those things I think it worked out pretty great."
Here’s the year-by-year breakdown of Smith’s deal:
Base salary: $1.2 million (fully guaranteed)
Workout bonus: $200,000
Cap number: $10.1 million
Smith’s cap number ranks 19th among quarterbacks for 2023, according to Spotrac.com. It’s comprised of the prorated amount of his $26.1 million signing bonus ($8.7 million in all three seasons), his $1.2 million base salary and the $200,000 workout bonus. The Seahawks typically don’t include workout bonuses in their contracts but did in this one.
Base salary: $12.7 million (guaranteed for injury at signing)
Roster bonus: $9.6 million (can escalate to as high as $24.6 million)
Workout bonus: $200,000
Cap number: $31.2 million
Smith’s base salary will become fully guaranteed (meaning for skill and cap, as well as injury) on the fifth day of the 2024 league year waiver period -- six days after the Super Bowl -- provided he’s still on their roster at that point. Moving on from him before then would incur $17.4 million in dead money (which Seattle could spread out over two seasons) while saving at least $13.8 million against the 2024 cap. The $31.2 million cap number only includes the $9.6 million roster bonus for now. It would increase based on whichever performance escalators Smith reaches in 2023, provided he's still on the roster on the fifth day of the 2024 league year.
Base salary: $14.8 million
Roster bonus: $10 million (can escalate to as high as $25 million)
Workout bonus: $200,000
Cap number: $33.7 million
Again, Smith’s cap number would increase based on any performance escalators he reaches in 2024, as long as he’s still on the roster by the fifth day of the 2025 league year. If the Seahawks were to move on from him between the end of the 2024 season and that mid-March date, they’d save at least $25 million in cash and cap space while incurring a dead-money charge of $8.7 million, which is the remaining proration of his signing bonus.