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Who & What is Geno Smith? Comprehending the NFL’s Unlikeliest Breakout Star of 2022

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
The Seahawks were expected to bottom out in the first year of the post-Russell Wilson era. Instead, a breakout season from an unlikely QB flipped the whole narrative.

Geno Smith stood proudly in front of ESPN’s cameras after taking down Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos in Week 1. Looking on with a big grin on his face, the new Seahawks QB kept it simple: “They wrote me off. I ain’t write back, though.”

Now, after clinching an improbable playoff berth in the final week of the season, Seattle’s brass ought to be ready to write him something tangible — a big, fat paycheck.

There’s little doubt now that Smith, now a Pro Bowler and compelling Comeback Player of the Year candidate, ought to be Seattle’s No. 1 priority this season. Oddsmakers handed them a win projection of over/under of 5.5 before the season, but Pete Carroll and Co. eclipsed that figure with surprising ease through a 9-8 record thanks in large part to a season-saving (and career-saving) performance from a certain 32-year-old QB who mere months ago was considered a football castoff.

Hope for anything other than a tank-job season was seemingly lost after the Seahawks opted to trade franchise superstar Wilson to Denver, but Smith quickly nixed that notion, ultimately breaking his predecessor’s Seahawks single-season passing yards record with 4,282. Furthermore, he finished with the highest completion percentage (69.8) among all NFL quarterbacks for the campaign — better than Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Jalen Hurts, and the whole lot.

His one-year, $3.5 million contract already looked silly. Now, even with all the incentives and bonuses he’s ultimately hit, it looks even sillier.

Let’s try to wrap our heads around this unlikeliest of seasons, as well as what it means for the upcoming offseason in Seattle.

Geno Smith’s Incentives & Contract Bonuses

Smith was guaranteed only $500,000 at signing, with $3 million set aside as conditional incentives. As Field Yates notes, Geno hit all of them — a particularly rare feat for a QB who was thrown into the mix with low expectations.

  • Week 1 active bonus: $585,000
  • Per Game Active Bonus: $65,000 ($1.105 million total)
  • Pro Bowl and 20+ TD passes: $500,000

Playing Time Incentives:

  • $250,000 each for 55%, 65%, 75%, 85%
  • 10 wins or playoff berth doubles this payout

Passing Yard Incentives (non-cumulative)

  • 3,400: $250,000
  • 3,700: $750,000
  • 4,000: $1 million

What is Geno Smith’s 2023 Market Value?

Athlete salary database Spotrac determines its own market value estimates based on a player’s age, contract status, and statistical production. It doesn’t take into account wins, awards, or playoff performance, but it’s a useful measuring stick when comparing other players’ deals.

In the case of Smith’s imminent free agency, he might just become one of the better-paid QBs in the league on an annual basis despite his 32 years of age. Call him a late bloomer if you like; the Jets’ 39th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft was once something of a football vagabond, but re-upping with Geno should be a real priority for Seattle this offseason.

Projecting the size of a Geno Smith contract extension

  • By Spotrac’s estimates, a Geno Smith contract extension is pegged at two years and $78,659,052. That would rank No. 10 in NFL history in terms of average annual salary (39.3M) after Matthew Stafford and Dak Prescott ($40,000,000).

Comparable QBs By Stats

Derek Carr3$121.5M$40.5M31
Matthew Stafford4$160M$40M34
Kirk Cousins1$35M$35M33
Matt Ryan5$150M$30M32

Comparable QBs By Value


Keep in mind with the stellar play, records, playoff berth, and immaculate comeback — Geno is bound to make more in the 2023 season alone than he has his entire career. In 10 seasons with the Jets, Giants, Chargers, and Seahawks, Smith has made just $17,446,078 in career earnings so far — that’s less than a top rookie QB makes in his debut season when signing bonuses are taken into account.

If that $39.3 million figure is correct, he’ll see a 1,022% raise from the $3.5 million he made this year. Of course, that number might fluctuate based on how much revenue the league brings in and how much more teams are allowed to spend next year, but the point is clear: Geno Smith made a major mark this season, and he’s on his way to making major money.

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About The Author
Anthony Puccio
Anthony Puccio
Anthony Puccio is a former Staff Writer at Boardroom. Puccio has 10 years of experience in journalism and content creation, previously working for SB Nation, The Associated Press, New York Daily News, SNY, and Front Office Sports. In 2016, he received New York University's CCTOP scholarship and earned a bachelor's degree in Communications from St. John's University. He can be spotted a mile away thanks to his plaid suits and thick New York accent. Don't believe us? Check his Twitter @APooch.