Getting clarity on Geno Smith, Drew Lock could help Seahawks make call on Baker Mayfield | Opinion
The Seattle Seahawks' quarterback situation remains one of the more intriguing storylines of the offseason, continuing the plot that began earlier this year when the team traded longtime face of the franchise Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.
Whether the Seahawks wind up acquiring Baker Mayfield – seemingly a long shot after coach Pete Carroll said in an interview last week that he doesn’t envision the team trading for a veteran passer – or whether Seattle does indeed roll with a combination of Geno Smith and Drew Lock, the decisions figure to shape at least the short-term trajectory of the franchise.
Thus far, talks regarding a deal with Cleveland for Mayfield haven’t progressed into advanced stages, people familiar with the situation have told USA TODAY Sports. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak for either team. So, for now, Mayfield remains a member of the Browns despite the blockbuster acquisition of Deshaun Watson.
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Meanwhile, as the Seahawks navigate the early stages of their offseason program, Smith and Lock lead the way. Smith – the 31-year-old who has served as Seattle’s backup the last two seasons – is “automatically ahead” in the competition for the starting job, Carroll told reporters earlier this week. But the coach is high on Lock, declaring in a recent interview that the fourth-year Missouri product, acquired from Denver in the compensation package for Wilson, would have been the first quarterback selected in this year’s NFL draft.
But the questions will persist: Can the Seahawks – members of an intensely competitive NFC West – truly feel comfortable with the current state of their quarterback position?
While some within the league believe it’s still too early to rule out a Mayfield acquisition, others don’t at all believe Carroll is bluffing as he expresses confidence in Smith and Lock. The individuals – executives, scouts and coaches – believe that given Smith’s experience, Lock’s potential and Mayfield’s fully guaranteed $18.8 million salary, the Seahawks very well could stand pat.
Smith and Lock don’t necessarily instill confidence in outsiders largely because each second-round pick (Smith in 2013, Lock in 2019) failed to live up to expectations with their original teams – the Jets and Broncos, respectively. But each has a few elements working in his favor.
Smith lasted two seasons as the Jets’ starter. After two more seasons as the Jets’ No. 2, he bounced from the Giants to the Chargers to the Seahawks, where he backed up Wilson the last two years.
Seahawks officials and coaches valued Smith enough to re-sign him in April to a one-year, $3.5 million contract. Smith proved serviceable while filling in for an injured Wilson for four games last season, completing 68.4% of his passes for five touchdowns and one interception while going 1-2 as a starter. Mobility and familiarity with the system help him extend plays and move the offense. That prompts some around the league to believe Smith could serve as an adequate bridge quarterback. But others say he’s merely a good backup and not starter material.
Lock, meanwhile, remains even more of a mystery and unfinished product.
As an on-again-off-again starter for the Broncos the last three seasons, Lock – like Denver as a whole under the since-fired Vic Fangio – struggled with both execution and consistency, going 8-13 in 21 starts while recording 25 touchdown passes, 20 interceptions and 13 fumbles.
However, Denver’s decision to move on from Lock – upgrading to a Super Bowl champion and nine-time Pro Bowl selection in Wilson – shouldn’t be taken as a death knell for his career.
Yes, he played poorly and looked lost at times. However, two opposing head coaches attribute some of those struggles to poor tutelage and an ineffective system.
Pointing to Lock’s college days, where in 2017 he led the nation with 44 touchdown passes while showing off a big arm and an ability to extend plays and make sharp passes on the run, both of the aforementioned opposing coaches believe Lock has the ability to play in the NFL. They believe time to learn and develop a strong belief in the right system could position Lock to resurrect his career and eventually lead him back to a starting lineup.
Is Seattle’s staff and offense, which traditionally utilizes a run-heavy approach to ease pressure on the quarterback, the right fit? Possibly. But how lengthy an acclimation period would the 25-year-old Lock need? And could Smith provide an ample bridge to the point where coaches deem Lock a proficient starter?
Those are the questions Carroll and Co. must decide during this offseason.
With no team apparently in a rush to swipe Mayfield from the Browns, the Seahawks could have the luxury of using the offseason practices to evaluate their quarterbacks before having to rule on a trade. Seattle officials also could use this evaluation window to buy time while waiting to see if Mayfield and the Browns ultimately agree to a buyout, enabling them to sign him without parting with draft picks.
As they enter a new era, the Seahawks certainly have an intriguing decision on their hands. Rolling with Smith and Lock may not be such a crazy call.
But given how things have played out thus far, the Seahawks' mission of the spring seemingly centers on determining whether they already have Wilson’s replacement inhouse, whether at the very least, Smith or Lock can get them through this season or if pulling the trigger for a Mayfield trade ultimately is the move that will best position Seattle for success.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.