Geno Smith's rumored Seahawks return shouldn't stop them from taking local product

Even with Geno Smith back, the Seattle Seahawks should have eyes on Michael Penix Jr.

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks
Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks / Conor Courtney/GettyImages
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The Seattle Seahawks are expected to bring back Geno Smith for the 2024 season, according to Bleacher Report's Jordan Schultz. The team has informed Smith he will be on the roster under his current contract, which will pay $12.7 million.

That is a bargain price relative to Smith's output. The 33-year-old has put together back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons for Seattle. He managed 15 starts in 2023, completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 3,624 yards, 20 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. With Pete Carroll gone and a new offensive coordinator in the building, however, Smith's future with the franchise is murky.

It's one thing to keep Smith on his current contract, but the Seahawks are deliberately not signing him to an extension. That is an understandable choice given his age and rather unique career trajectory, but all the same, Pro Bowl QBs don't often enter the season on one-year deals that sit below market value. The Seahawks are setting the stage for Smith to move on in 2024, whether he wants to or not.

That's why the Seahawks should keep all their options open in the upcoming NFL Draft. Armed with the No. 16 pick in the first round, Seattle could select Smith's successor. There's a chance that the successor falls to the second round, too. Either way, it's no secret who the fan favorite and popular theoretical target is: Washington's Michael Penix Jr.

Seahawks should still target Michael Penix Jr. despite Geno Smith contract

We often discuss NFL Draft prospects in a vacuum. While there is merit to debating and ranking the best overall prospects at a specific position, so much of a player's NFL success is tied to team context. The right organization can unearth a hidden gem where few others expect it. The wrong organization can turn a draft night prize into a nationwide laughing stock.

With Penix, the Seattle connection goes beyond geography. There is a nice, heartfelt story to be penned about keeping the Huskies star in town, but the schematic fit is also strong. That is because the Seahawks just hired Ryan Grubb to take over offensive coordinator duties. What was Grubb doing last season? Fulfilling the same job for UW.

That built-in familiarity would put Penix a step ahead of the competition when it comes to translating his skill set to the next level. There are valid red flags with Penix as a prospect — primarily his age (24 when the season starts) and injury history — but the talent is undeniable. He was a productive hub for college football's most dynamic offense at Washington, completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 4,903 yards, 36 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in 15 starts.

The Seahawks would plug Penix into a comfortable scheme with a robust collection of playmaking talent around him. Few WR rooms can top the 1-2-3 punch of DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Add in a strong run game rooted in Kenneth Walker III, and Penix would be well-positioned for immediate success.

Penix is a singular deep-ball artist, often inclined to launch bombs up the sideline and reel off chunk gains. Well, he can be assured that his OC is on the same page in Seattle. Penix wouldn't start as a rookie, but Smith is a great vet to learn from. He has been around the NFL for a long time, not always as the full-time starter. His experience overcoming adversity, in addition to his football knowledge, could be invaluable to Penix.

Some will balk at the idea of drafting a 24-year-old and not starting him on Day 1, but the patient approach can still work for Penix. He needs to clean up some fundamentals and polish the in-between game. He can get valuable reps in practice while picking up crucial game knowledge from the sidelines on Sundays. Then, when Smith's contract comes off the books next season, Penix would be first in line to take the Seahawks' QB job and run with it.

When it comes to pairing prospect and team, few unions make more logical and emotional sense than Penix and Seattle.

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