No losing QB sleep in Seattle

Seahawks’ solution might not be what everyone assumes

- Mike Jones Columnist USA TODAY

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 their blockbuste­r acquisitio­n of Deshaun Watson.

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 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 New York 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 New York Giants to the Los Angeles 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 in house; 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.

 ?? JOE NICHOLSON/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Quarterbac­k Geno Smith has started 34 NFL games in eight seasons for four teams but just three last year with the Seahawks.
JOE NICHOLSON/USA TODAY SPORTS Quarterbac­k Geno Smith has started 34 NFL games in eight seasons for four teams but just three last year with the Seahawks.
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 ?? TOMMY GILLIGAN/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Baker Mayfield seeks a trade after the Browns acquired Deshaun Watson but talks with the Seahawks haven’t progressed.
TOMMY GILLIGAN/USA TODAY SPORTS Baker Mayfield seeks a trade after the Browns acquired Deshaun Watson but talks with the Seahawks haven’t progressed.

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