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What would it cost the Seahawks to part ways with Geno Smith after 2023?

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By: Frank T. Raines

Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Geno Smith’s team-friendly contract gives the Seahawks ‘an out’ after this season, should they decide to go that route

As a follow-up to the mildly-popular article I recently wrote about Geno Smith’s career-best game vs. Washington not changing the fact that he isn’t “the one”, I thought I’d take a look at Geno Smith’s contract.

More specifically, I thought I’d look at what it would cost the Seattle Seahawks should they decide to part ways with Geno Smith after this season.

It’s a somewhat complicated question, in part because of the incentives that Geno can earn this season (and next season), but . . .

Let’s start with the basics . . .

Geno Smith signed a 3-year, $75M contract last offseason.

At the time, it was widely reported to be a 3-year, $105M contract which would have given it an annual average of $35M per season.

As the details trickled out, the annual average – and the contract as a whole – became more and more team-friendly.

When all was said and done, both the initial reports (3/$105M) and final reports (3/$75M) were somewhat accurate, but not completely so.

The reason for that is incentives.

But incentives are complicated (since they may or may not get earned) so we’ll put in a pin in them for now and focus on the main contract.

Which is complicated enough without the incentives . . .

Signing Bonus

Geno’s contract included a signing bonus of $26.1M which was prorated over the life of the contract ($8.7M per season).

Note: This is money that Geno has already been paid and/or that has been allocated to be paid to him by Seattle.

Theoretically, there is a way for Seattle to get out of paying some of the $26.1M but that’s not a rabbit hole I’m interested in climbing into today.

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Workout Bonuses

As part of his contract, Geno has workout bonuses of $200,000 per season.

In the grand scheme of things, these are fairly insignificant since the account for only 0.8% of his overall contract, but . . .

Details matter.

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Guaranteed at Signing

Prior to signing his most recent contract, Geno Smith had earned roughly $17.5M over the first 10 years of his NFL career. Thus, when he set pen to paper earlier this year (or pixels to pdf), he more than doubled his career earnings.

That said . . .

Only the signing bonus ($26.1M) and Geno’s 2023 base salary ($1.2M) were fully guaranteed at signing, meaning that Seattle could walk away from the contract after the 2023 season having spent “only” $27.3M (for one season).

Note: The cost would actually be $27.5M since Geno presumably earned his $200,000 workout bonus.

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Injury Guarantee

Raise your hand if you remember the Las Vegas Raiders benching Derek Carr last season so they didn’t risk triggering the injury guarantee in his contract.

It was instantly obviously that Vegas was moving on from Carr when the season ended – and they did.

Geno’s contract has a similar injury guarantee.

Specifically, Geno’s 2024 base salary ($12.7M) was guaranteed against injury the day he signed the contract.

So . . .

If Seattle’s leadership were to decide that they were moving on from Geno after this season, that injury guarantee becomes something to keep in mind.

Note: Geno’s contract does not include an injury guarantee for Geno’s 2025 salary.

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Geno’s 2024 Base Salary

The injury guarantee (above) isn’t the only protection for Geno’s 2024 salary.

Although it wasn’t fully guaranteed at signing, Geno’s 2024 base salary ($12.7M) does become fully guaranteed on the 5th day of the 2024 waiver period (aka the Friday after the Super Bowl).

Like the injury guarantee, this is something to keep in mind because it means that Seattle’s ability to “walk away clean” (via an outright release) is very time-limited.

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Roster Bonuses and the TIMING Thereof

In addition to the base salaries and the prorated portions of his signing bonus, Geno is also set to earn sizable roster bonuses in both 2024 ($9.6M) and 2025 ($10M).

Critically, the roster bonuses are due on the fifth day of the league year (i.e., one week after the “legal tampering period” begins for free agency).

From a practical perspective, the roster bonuses are “forced reflection points” for the team wherein John and Pete will need to determine if Geno Smith is “the one” for the upcoming season; if not, it’s bye-bye, birdie.

Note: The 2024 league year starts on Wednesday, March 13th, which makes the fifth day of the league year March 18th, 2024.

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So far, so good?

I hope so, because it’s about to get more complicated.

Note: If you don’t like complications, jump to the Math Time section near the end to see the final numbers.

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The Role June 1st Plays

If you’ve ever been exposed to salary cap discussions, you’ve heard of the post-June 1st designation.

Some folks make it more complicated than it needs to be.

I’ll try to keep it simple.

Team transactions are processed the day after they’re received by the league office.

Most of the time.

If a team releases (or trades) a player on Day X. the transaction becomes official on Day X+1. Or, in non-algebraic terms, if the Los Angeles Rams were to release Aaron Donald today, he would become a free agent tomorrow.

That said, there is an exception.

That exception comes in the form of a “lever” that teams can pull a couple times a year to help them with their salary cap machinations: the post-June 1st designation.

From a salary cap perspective, the post-June 1st designation affects how the “dead money” on a player’s contract is accounted for – which is why teams sometimes use it.

The post-June 1st designation can be a double-edged sword though . . .

Using the post-June 1st designation means the team hasn’t really released (or traded) the player and won’t actually release (or trade) them until June 1st – which means the league office won’t process the paperwork until . . . June 2nd.

Hence the post-June 1st part of the designation.

Note: This is why teams don’t use the post-June 1st designation when trading a player for a pick in the current year’s draft – because the league office wouldn’t process the trade until June 2nd.

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MATH TIME !!

Alright, we’re roughly 1,000 words into this article so let’s turn our attention to the primary question: What it would cost the Seahawks should they decide to part ways with Geno Smith after this season?

Scenario No. 1

Seattle parts ways with Geno Smith, via outright release, prior to the Friday after the Super Bowl:

  • “New” Money: $0
  • “Old” Money: $17.4M (prorated signing bonus)
  • 2023 Cap Hit: $10.1M
  • 2024 Cap Hit: $17.4M + whatever incentives he earns in 2023
  • 2025 Cap Hit: $0
  • Total Cost for One Season: $27.5M (plus earned incentives)

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Scenario No. 2

Seattle parts ways with Geno Smith, via trade, prior to the fifth day of the 2024 NFL league year (aka March 18th, 2024):

  • “New” Money: $0
  • “Old” Money: $17.4M (prorated signing bonus)
  • 2023 Cap Hit: $10.1M
  • 2024 Cap Hit: $17.4M + whatever incentives he earns in 2023
  • 2025 Cap Hit: $0
  • Total Cost for One Season: $27.5M (plus earned incentives)

Note: Add $12.7M under “new” money if the Seahawks release Geno Smith as they would be responsible for his 2024 base salary. That would bump the 2024 cap hit to $30.1M (plus earned incentives) and the total cost for one season to $40.2M (plus incentives).

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Scenario No. 3

Seattle parts ways with Geno Smith, via trade, prior to the NFL Draft (or at any point prior to June 1st):

  • “New” Money: $9.6M (roster bonus)
  • “Old” Money: $17.4M (prorated signing bonus)
  • 2023 Cap Hit: $10.1M
  • 2024 Cap Hit: $27M + whatever incentives he earns in 2023
  • 2025 Cap Hit: $0
  • Total Cost for One Season: $37.1M (plus earned incentives)

Note: Releasing Geno would bump the 2024 cap hit to $39.7M and the total cost for one season to $49.8M (plus earned incentives).

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Scenario No. 4

Seattle parts ways with Geno Smith, via trade, after June 1st OR parts ways with him prior to June 1st but does so with the post-June 1st designation:

  • “New” Money: $9.6M (roster bonus)
  • “Old” Money: $17.4M (prorated signing bonus)
  • 2023 Cap Hit: $10.1M
  • 2024 Cap Hit: $8.7M + whatever incentives he earns in 2023
  • 2025 Cap Hit: $8.7M
  • Total Cost for One Season: $37.1M (plus earned incentives)

Note: Releasing Geno would bump the 2024 cap hit to $21.4M and the total cost for one season to $49.8M (plus earned incentives).

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Bottom Line

As the math shows, parting ways with Geno Smith is somewhat expensive, but not prohibitively so. It does, however, become more expensive the longer the Seahawks wait to make a decision.

Releasing Geno prior to the fifth day of the 2024 waiver period (aka the Friday after the Super Bowl) is the most fiscally responsible option.

The Seahawks can extend the window for fiscal responsibility if they find a trade partner, but only by a couple of months since Geno’s 2024 roster bonus is due on the fifth day of the new league year (aka March 18th, 2024).

If Geno is still on the roster come March 19th, 2024, it would be reasonable to assume that the Seahawks are keeping him (for at least another year).

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FTR’s Take

Despite authoring this article and the one that preceded it, I will be a tad bit surprised if the Seahawks decide to part ways with Geno Smith after the 2023 season.

Unless . . .

  1. They believe that Drew Lock gives them a better chance to win games; OR
  2. They’re willing to “sacrifice” the 2024 season; OR
  3. A mind-blowing trade takes place.

There is a scenario in which I could see No. 1 being an option. No. 2, no way! – not while Pete Carroll is at the helm. No. 3 is possible, but I used the phrase “mind-blowing” for a reason.

Yes, there is a fourth option . . .

Free agency.

But who among the 2024 free agent quarterbacks would really give the Seahawks a better chance at winning games than Geno Smith? Or Drew Lock for that matter?

Originally posted on Field Gulls