AP Photo/John Raoux
No one can deny how well Geno Smith played for the Seattle Seahawks during the 2022 campaign. But even with the reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year signed to a newly minted three-year, $75 million contract, the Seahawks must pursue all of their options at quarterback because they sit in a rare position to replace a competent starter with an elite talent.
Florida’s Anthony Richardson is enticing enough to strongly consider the possibility of a deal.
Smith led the NFL with a 69.8 percent completion rate last season and set a franchise record with 4,282 passing yards. Despite that performance from the 32-year-old veteran, Seattle finished four games behind the San Francisco 49ers for first place in the NFC West.
Does the team’s record fall entirely on the quarterback’s shoulders? Of course not. The franchise needs to address other areas of the roster. But a high-profile Seahawks contingent has made the rounds for all of the top quarterback prospect throwing sessions, and whispers are growing into full-blown buzz.
“Speculation from league insiders during Florida’s pro day is the Seattle Seahawks could be the team that leapfrogs the Indianapolis Colts and trades up with the Arizona Cardinals to secure Richardson,” Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline reported Thursday.
The Athletic’s Vic Tafur unintentionally corroborated Pauline’s story when he wrote, “The buzz is that the Seahawks will jump up from No. 5 to No. 3 to grab either Richardson or [Will] Levis, as [C.J.] Stroud and [Bryce] Young are expected to go 1-2.”
Either this information is a widely growing smokescreen, or legitimate interest exists within the Seahawks organization for a long-term solution at the game’s most important position.
In order for this to happen, a lot of groundwork needs to be laid. As Tafur noted, expectations are built around Stroud and Young being selected by the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans, respectively.
The Panthers have been coy about their preferred choice since acquiring the No. 1 pick in a trade with Chicago Bears, but those around the league aren’t buying what head coach Frank Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer are selling.
“As you’d expect, some people don’t believe that [Carolina doesn’t know who it wants], and a very unscientific poll of sources to whom I spoke at the meeting tells me most people believe they’re taking Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud,” ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported.
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans, an Alabama graduate, doesn’t seemed fazed about the fact that Young is a 5’10”, 204-pound quarterback, per John Crumpler of USA Today‘s Texans Wire:
“For Bryce, I know it’s a lot, going on to talk about his size. The guy has done it at the highest level in college football and size hasn’t seemed to be a problem. I don’t see it as an issue because you watch the tape, and you put on the tape, and you see the kid play, and you see how smart he is. You see the anticipation. You see the accuracy. You see how this guy is calm in critical moments. When you see those things, size isn’t one of the factors that pop up on tape that’s like, oh, man, it’s a problem.”
With those two likely off the board, Richardson comes into play. His natural physical tools are undeniable. He’s 6’4″ and 244 pounds with 4.43-second 40-yard-dash speed. The early entrant also set quarterback records at the NFL Scouting Combine with a 40 ½-inch vertical and 10’9″ broad jump. He’s the most athletic quarterback we’ve seen over the last 36 years, per Pro Football Network’s Kent Lee Platte.
Richardson’s floor is much higher than other prospects based purely on those athletic traits. As the 20-year-old continues to grow as a quarterback and refine his mechanics, his strength in the pocket, toughness to bring down, escapability from pressure and usage in the designed running game will allow him to create and contribute.
His arm talent is staggering as well. The ease with which he creates velocity and spins the ball is a sight to behold. The Florida quarterback can be a deadly downfield thrower to couple with his usage in the running game.
“There have only been three players in my college coaching career that I was hoping did not play that day we faced them: DeSean Jackson, Tavon Austin and Anthony Richardson,” an anonymous coach told The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman. “He’s that different.”
Lingering concerns about Richardson center on his inexperience and inaccuracy. The uber-athlete started only one season and completed 53.8 percent of his passes. There are times when he sprays throws and needs to take some steam off his passes. Marrying his footwork to his eyes will be a constant progression.
When Richardson gathers himself properly and throws in rhythm, his tosses tend to be on the money. And NFL defenders don’t allow quarterbacks to consistently sit back in the pocket and pick apart coverages. Richardson needs to develop the proper muscle memory to regather, reset and deliver on a regular basis. It’ll take time. But time he’ll have because of those aforementioned traits.
AP Photo/John Raoux
Furthermore, the quarterback’s completion percentage shouldn’t be viewed as a fatal flaw. The Gators fielded inferior talent at wide receiver and employed an overly simplistic offense that didn’t do Richardson any favors. Dropped passes or Richardson having nowhere to go with the ball was a regular occurrence on Florida’s offensive tape.
The growth potential in his game is staggering, hence why the Seahawks should be interested, especially with Smith not necessarily being a long-term solution.
Smith’s aforementioned contract isn’t a rock-solid three-year deal. The Seahawks can get out of it after the upcoming season.
If it releases him, Seattle will $13.8 million toward the 2024 salary cap, per Over the Cap. The Seahawks will still have $17.4 million counted toward next year’s figure, but it’s an acceptable number considering the 2023 third overall pick will have a cap charge falling somewhere around $8 million. The combined tally of roughly $25.4 million will have Seattle falling around 14th in quarterback spending for that season.
If the Seahawks release Smith with a post-June 1 designation, they will save $22.5 million. Thus, another major investment in the position this offseason isn’t out of the question.
“When I ask some high-level scouts who were at the pro day how Anthony Richardson looked, they said that it’s looking like he might not fall past Seattle at No. 5,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said on SportsCenter.
The speculation of Seattle’s infatuation runs even deeper.
“We’re told [general manager John] Schneider spent extensive time with quarterback Anthony Richardson’s agent in Gainesville on Thursday, while [head coach Pete] Carroll held a private meeting with Florida coach Billy Napier to continue digging on the quarterback,” FanNation’s Corbin K. Smith wrote.
The Seahawks haven’t made their potential interest in a quarterback a secret this offseason. They’ve spent time with each of the top four projected signal-callers at their pro days:
Dov Kleiman @NFL_DovKleiman
<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Seahawks?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Seahawks</a> media adds another selfie, this time Anthony Richardson.<br><br>Already met with Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Will Levis. <a href=”https://t.co/xVmbyQXTyj”>pic.twitter.com/xVmbyQXTyj</a>
Previous cases of teams courting other quarterbacks have typically ended poorly for the incumbent, with the likes of Baker Mayfield and Matt Ryan being prime examples last offseason.
Seahawks brass took a different approach to their travels.
“I told Geno what we were doing. We talked beforehand. He knows what’s going on,” Carroll said, per Graziano. “… He was great about it. He gets it. He’s been around the game. … What he will do is he’ll help him. He’s already stated that.”
In the short term, Smith remains Seattle’s starter. The team can go into the ’23 season with the veteran at the helm. He should have no fear of Richardson taking his spot this year. Meanwhile, the rookie can sit, learn, continue to hone his craft and add another dynamic as part of limited offensive packages.
The biggest hurdle stems from a division rival holding the third overall pick. Seattle’s interest in Richardson may mean nothing if the Cardinals don’t want a team they play twice per season to land its quarterback of the future.
Chris Coduto/Getty Images
While unlikely, Arizona should listen to the offer. Why? Well, it comes down to a few factors. If it doesn’t view Richardson in the same light as others, it shouldn’t be worried about him landing within the division. Second, a swap for the fifth overall pick will bring back valuable draft assets to build up the subpar roster. Finally, the landing spot keeps the Cardinals within striking distance to select Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr., Georgia’s Jalen Carter or their favorite cornerback prospect.
Schneider has the firepower at his disposal to make something happen. The Seahawks own a pair of first- and second-round draft picks, though this year’s 20th overall selection likely wouldn’t be offered in any deal.
Some may even view Seattle’s approach as an elaborate smokescreen to entice another organization to trade up with Arizona for a quarterback, potentially guaranteeing the top overall defender falls into the Seahawks’ proverbial lap while simultaneously keeping that prospect away from a rival.
None of this should be faked, though. Richardson is talented enough to be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick. Seattle is an ideal landing spot for him because of Smith. And the team shouldn’t be 100 percent sold on its current starter after one good season.
If a team doesn’t have a franchise quarterback, it never stops searching for one. Seattle’s search can stop if it swings a deal to land Richardson.
Brent Sobleski covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @brentsobleski.
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