As Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith prepares to hit the negotiating table this offseason, he can take with him two more pieces of significant hardware: awards from the Pro Football Writers of America as both the Comeback Player of the Year and the Most Improved Player of the Year.
Smith was named as the winner in both of those categories Friday in a vote of members of the PFWA, an organization of writers and other media who cover the NFL.
Smith has been named to the Pro Bowl games, which will take place Sunday, Feb. 5, in Las Vegas, and also was nominated this week as one of three finalists for The Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year Award.
The AP award is considered the official NFL award and will be given at the NFL Honors show Thursday, Feb. 9. The other finalists for that award are Giants running back Saquon Barkley and 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey.
All of the honors come on the heels of a breakout season for Smith that seemed to surprise many as he took over for the traded Russell Wilson and led Seattle to a 9-8 record and a wild-card spot in the NFC playoffs.
Smith led the NFL with what was also a team-record single-season completion percentage of 69.8 while finishing fourth in touchdown passes with 30 and fifth in passer rating at 100.9. He also set team records in passing yards (4,282) and completions (399) while becoming one of just three QBs in team history to throw for 30 or more TDs in a year, the others being Wilson and Dave Krieg.
The 2022 season was the first for Smith as a starter since his second year in the league in 2014 with the New York Jets.
The PFWA is in its 59th year and has given out a Comeback Player of the Year Award since 1992 and Most Improved Player since 2000.
Smith, 32, is the first Seahawk to win either award and the third QB to win both in the same season, joining Cincinnati quarterback Jon Kitna in 2003 and Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill in 2019.
Smith can now become an unrestricted free agent March 15 unless the Seahawks sign him to an extension first or place a franchise tag on him when the 15-day window to do so opens Feb. 21.
But in his end-of-season news conference, coach Pete Carroll made clear the team hopes to do what it takes to keep Smith.
“We have our guy,” Carroll said. “We need to, hopefully, work things out so he is with us. There is business to be done there of course, but there is no lid on what we can do. The sky is the limit. That along with returning him with his leadership factor that he had, he’s a big deal to us. I just couldn’t be more tickled by the way the whole thing turned out and how he handled it. Really, as we look to the future, he is a big part of why we are looking to the future so promisingly.”
Following Seattle’s 41-23 loss to the 49ers in the playoffs, Smith said he hoped to end his career as a Seahawk: “I want to be here. The town, the city, the team, Coach Carroll, the organization — they all embraced me. You know, I was a guy who probably could have been out of the league. They embraced me … at a time when not many people were, and that means a lot to me. I got a lot of loyalty in me. And I want to repay those guys for doing that.”
But while Seahawks general manager John Schneider and Smith held an exit meeting last week — which the team does with all players — substantive contracts talks have yet to begin.
Schneider said during appearance on “The Ian Furness Show” on Sports Radio 93.3 KJR on Wednesday that the team expects to re-sign Smith, saying, “Yeah, yeah we do.”
But Schneider also said that there will be a negotiation that has to take place first to get that done and that Smith “knows what the process is going to be. We’d love to have him back. … in terms of getting it done, it’s a process. Hope to get started here pretty quick. … We’ll get to it as soon as we can and try to do what’s best for Geno and try to do what’s best for the organization.”
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