Geno Smith, new deal in hand, still of ‘year-by-year’ mindset


RENTON, Wash. — This time last year, Geno Smith was competing for the Seattle Seahawks‘ starting job, hoping to shed the label of longtime backup while playing on another one-year deal.

But as much as his life has changed over the last 12 months, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl quarterback and $75 million man says his mindset hasn’t. That was the repeated theme of Smith’s answers as he spoke with reporters Monday after the team’s first OTA practice.

“In my mind, no,” he said, when asked if things feel much different from last year. “If it is different, I just want to work hard and be better. That’s really it. But in my mind, I keep the same mentality. Drew [Lock] and I and [undrafted free agent Holton Ahlers] — we’re competing our butts off and that’s competition every day. We’re trying to see who’s the best quarterback out there on the field every single time.”

Smith’s comments were his first to Seattle-area media since he signed his three-year, $75 million contract in March, a payday that capped his remarkable resurgence after seven seasons as a backup. He had played the past six seasons on one-year deals, many of them for at or near the minimum salary.

Smith, the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year last season, was asked whether he did anything for himself to celebrate after having to go year-by-year with his contracts for so long.

“It’s still year-by-year,” he said. “I’ve got to look at it like that. It’s one year at a time for me. My celebration was I picked up my baby and hugged him up and then I went to the weight room and got back to work. Just got to stay in it. I’m just trying to keep working and focus on ball.”

Smith’s $26.1 million signing bonus alone represented roughly $9 million more than he had made over his first 10 NFL seasons combined. The deal can be worth up to $105 million thanks to an additional $30 million that’s available in escalators.

But the structure is such that the team could move on after one season with manageable cap penalties if Smith were to falter in 2023, a fact that lent weight to pre-draft comments from coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider that they could spend an early pick on a quarterback.

The Seahawks re-signed Lock but didn’t draft a QB with any of their 10 picks. Smith on Monday reiterated his stance that he would have welcomed it.

“It’s the NFL, there’s a draft every year,” he said. “There’s players out there, guys out there working hard. That’s why I’ve got to work hard. I’ve got to be better than those guys, and I look at everyone as competition. There’s a lot of great rookies that are coming out of the draft and I think they’re all deserving. So if we’d have picked one, I would have given him my all, just as would I do to any teammate. It really didn’t matter to me. I love competition so I’ll compete with everybody.”

The 32-year-old Smith didn’t miss a single snap last season. He believes he can play past 40 — “I’m striving for it but we’ll see,” he said — but later acknowledged the fragility of life in the NFL.

“I’m going into my 11th season, obviously it’s a blessing to even do that,” he said. “But who knows when the clock strikes midnight, right? So I cherish every single opportunity. I cherish every single practice, every single moment out here and in the classroom with my teammates.

“I think that’s where my perspective has kind of changed a little bit, just going from being a young guy to being an older vet. Obviously I still feel young but there’s some things to think about and so I’m very excited about the future. I think I can do this thing for, God willing, a long, long time. So I just want to keep working and try and be better every day.”

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