For the first time in a decade, there will be no bigger question mark for the Seahawks entering the season than at quarterback.
After 10 years of Hall of Fame play, Russell Wilson is gone, off to Denver, with only uncertainty in his place.
Which makes the quarterback position a good place to start our reviews of every Seahawks position group heading into the draft.
Players under contract for 2022: Geno Smith, Drew Lock, Jacob Eason.
Key offseason losses: Russell Wilson.
Thursday’s news that the Seahawks have re-signed Geno Smith brought some clarity to Seattle’s quarterback depth chart entering the draft.
With Smith back on a one-year deal, Seattle now has two vets lined up to compete for the starting job — Smith and Lock — with Eason also likely to get a long look in the offseason and training camp after being kept on the roster the final two months of last season after being claimed off waivers from the Colts.
Seattle is sure to add another QB to the roster, likely in the draft, though the Seahawks won’t close the door to anything. You’d think at this point, though, that Baker Mayfield is only an option if released or at a greatly reduced salary.
Smith and Lock have pretty similar starting records in the NFL — Smith is 13-21, Lock 8-13.
Those obviously pale in comparison to Wilson’s 104-53-1.
True, win-loss records for QBs can be deceiving. But the stark differences in the records illustrate clearly how the Seahawks went from having one of the surest things in the NFL to two players who have yet to prove themselves.
The Seahawks, though, liked the way Smith played in three games as a starter last year with a passer rating of 103.0, basically the same as Wilson’s 103.1, which included two games in rough conditions against the Saints and Steelers.
And they feel Lock has a lot of untapped potential from his three years in Denver, in which he had two different offensive coordinators, and the disadvantage of having to learn a new offense during the COVID-19 year of 2020.
A prevailing thought around the league is that the Seahawks view Lock, who is just 25, as still being as promising a prospect as anyone available in this year’s draft.
Whether that’s true will be determined by what the Seahawks actually do in the draft itself.
Recent draft history
The Seahawks have drafted just two quarterbacks since 2009 — Wilson in the third round in 2012 and Alex McGough in the seventh in 2018. Expect another this year.
You know what happened with Wilson.
As for McGough, he has been on rosters each of the past four years, including with Seattle in training camp last year. But he has yet to appear in an NFL game and currently is playing for the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL, going 5-10 for 55 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the Stallions’ debut win Saturday over the New Jersey Generals.
And fun fact: McGough was taken with a pick Seattle got for moving down three spots — from 76 to 79 — in a deal with the Steelers. Pittsburgh used that pick to take QB Mason Rudolph while Seattle got defensive end Rasheem Green and McGough.
Draft need (on scale of 1-10): 8.5.
In what might not be opportune news for the Seahawks, this is not regarded as the year to need a quarterback from the draft. Pro Football Focus recently graded this year’s crop of QB draftees as a C-minus, writing: “It’s not a strong quarterback class, and that lack of quality is present all the way down the list of prospects — not just limited to the top. At one point last season, there were discussions that five quarterbacks could be off the board with the first six selections. Ultimately, they all went by pick No. 15. This year, there’s debate about whether any of them belongs in the first 10 selections.”
If the Seahawks believe that, that might mean Seattle won’t take a QB at No. 9.
But if the class is really regarded that way, it might also mean one of the top five or so QBs falls to where Seattle is at 40 and 41, and the Seahawks can make much less of an investment there. The ninth pick this year comes with a $4.4 million cap hit for 2022, while the 40th and 41st picks are at $1.7 million and $1.6 million, respectively.
The uncertain nature of this draft class is evidenced in the fact that there is little consensus about who is the top prospect, unlike the last few years when there was an obvious top-rated QB — Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence, respectively.
But the names of those who could become the first QB taken have become well-known by now — Malik Willis of Liberty, Kenny Pickett of Pitt, Matt Corral of Ole Miss, Sam Howell of North Carolina and Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati.
Ridder has been popularly mocked to Seattle since the Seahawks have had him in for a pre-draft visit.
All have some measure of mobility — something the Seahawks are likely to want to keep around after all those years of benefiting from Wilson’s.
But each comes with some significant question marks as to their NFL future.
And Seattle knowing it has two first-round picks next year — which it could always package to move up to target someone — might play into the team’s decisions this year.
Next up: Running back.