The Seattle Seahawks are working to re-sign Pro Bowl quarterback Geno Smith, but general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll said that isn't stopping the team from taking a hard look at this year's quarterback class.
Schneider on Tuesday described contract talks with Smith, the 2022 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, as "positive" thus far.
It's no different from any other offseason for an organization that prides itself on leaving no stone unturned when it comes to player acquisition -- with the notable caveat being that the Seahawks own the fifth overall pick in this year's draft via the Russell Wilson trade as well as their own first-rounder (No. 20 overall).
"We are totally connected to the quarterbacks that are coming out," Carroll told reporters at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "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 with these guys. So we're deeply involved with all that."
The Seahawks haven't picked in the top five since they drafted linebacker Aaron Curry with the No. 4 selection in 2009, the year before Carroll and Schneider arrived. They've made the playoffs 10 times in 13 seasons since, which has meant routinely drafting later in the first round.
"A lot," Schneider said when asked how much the Seahawks are looking at this year's quarterback class. "Every year, honestly, we really look at it a lot. Like I said earlier, we haven't picked fifth overall since we've been here. So yeah, I got out to see a lot of quarterbacks this year. It was pretty fun. But honestly, every year we've tried to do that, and we've tried to add quarterbacks."
Smith is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after pulling off a remarkable career turnaround in which he unexpectedly won Seattle's starting job and finished in the top 10 of several categories, including first in completion rate and sixth in Total QBR.
Schneider said in a radio interview after the season that he thinks a deal will get done, while Smith said at the Pro Bowl last month that the prospects of the two sides reaching a deal are "looking very good."
"I would say it's always a process," Schneider said Tuesday. "Close? I would say 'positive.' All these negotiations, some go a little bit faster than others. Usually when you're talking about larger numbers, they take a little bit more time. Obviously much more complex than [in] different sports with guaranteed contracts. There's a lot more that goes into these contracts."
Schneider declined to comment on whether the Seahawks are considering using the $32.416 million franchise tag on Smith, other than to say that the tag is a "tool" teams have at their disposal. The Seahawks have used the franchise tag only twice under Carroll and Schneider -- on kicker Olindo Mare (2010) and defensive end Frank Clark (2019), who was then traded.
In that same span, they've drafted only two quarterbacks -- Wilson (2012, third round) and Alex McGough (2018, seventh round). But sources have told ESPN that the Seahawks were poised to draft Patrick Mahomes in 2017 if he fell to them, and that they called the Cleveland Browns in 2018 to gauge interest in a possible swap of Wilson for the No. 1 overall pick, which Seattle would have used on Josh Allen.
In addition to picks Nos. 5 and 20 overall, the Seahawks own an extra second-rounder from Denver and 10 selections in all. Schneider was asked why it might still make sense to draft a quarterback high even if they re-sign Smith.
"Because they don't grow on trees," Schneider said. "It's probably the hardest position to acquire a talent, a guy that everybody feels very confident in."
ESPN's Jeff Legwold and DJ Bien-Aime contributed to this report.