The stockpiling of faded starters for the just in case behind Russell Wilson continues for the Seahawks.
They signed former New York Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith on Wednesday, to compete with former Denver Broncos first-round pick Paxton Lynch for the backup job behind Wilson in 2019.
The team announced the deal Wednesday morning.
Wilson has yet to miss a practice let alone a game in his seven NFL seasons as Seattle’s starter.
Smith, 28, is now on his fourth team in four years.
He was the Jets’ second-round draft choice in 2013. He started 29 games for New York his first two seasons in the NFL, passing for 5,571 yards and 25 touchdowns with 34 interceptions.
Then teammate IK Enemkpali broke Smith’s jaw with a punch in fight during Jets training camp in 2015.
That pretty much KO’d Smith’s time as a starter in the league.
Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced Smith in New York. Whe the Jets briefly benched Fitzpatrick in 2016, Smith replaced him--but lasted just into the second quarter of his only start that season. Smith tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in that game. He was out for that season.
He signed with the Giants for 2017 and started one game for benched Eli Manning. Last season Smith was Philip Rivers’ backup with the Chargers. He appeared five times mopping up games for a playoff team.
The Seahawks signed Lynch in January. Denver’s failed former first-round pick was Seattle’s only other quarterback on the roster behind Wilson, after the Seahawks waived undrafted rookie Taryn Christion this week.
If the Seahawks have their way in 2019—plus in 2020, ‘21 and beyond—the produce guy at your neighborhood Safeway could be their backup for Wilson.
Wilson just got an NFL-record $140 million contract extension. It keeps him obligated to Seattle through the 2023 season, when he will be 35 years old.
He was the only quarterback in the league last season to take every snap for his team.
But what if...?
The Seahawks got to see a glimpse of “what if” in September 2016. And it spooked them.
Wilson got a high-ankle sprain from getting stepped on by Miami’s Ndamukong Suh in that season’s opener. Then in the third game of that season Wilson sprained his knee. Doctors told him he should miss four weeks. Trevone Boykin, whom the Seahawks had signed as an undrafted rookie, entered for the injured Wilson in that blowout win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 25, 2015, and threw his first career touchdown pass.
It was the first time in his five seasons Wilson had missed even a play. The only reason Boykin didn’t have to start the next couple games was Wilson flew his physical therapist and others in from California to stay with him at his house and wake him hourly every night, to keep the knee from swelling and for around-the-clock rehabilitation.
“He even gets treatment during meetings,” teammate and linebacker Bobby Wagner marveled at the time.
It worked. Wilson still hasn’t missed a game.
But those two injuries showed Wilson wasn’t indestructible; he only seemed to be. They made Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider appreciate the value of having a quarterback who has started NFL games, who has gone through weeks of preparation as the starter, to be available to play in the event Wilson actually, finally, can’t. They saw the value of not having an undrafted rookie as their only option if Wilson goes down.
Boykin is out of the league, beset by legal problems of his own making. Since the Seahawks released him they’ve traded for former Green Bay Packers’ fill-in starter Brett Hundley. Hundley was Wilson’s peace-of-mind backup last season. He never got in a game before his contract ended. He signed this offseason with Arizona. That gave Seattle a compensatory draft choice in 2020, effectively replacing the seventh-round pick this year the Seahawks gave to the Packers to get Hundley.
Of course, if Wilson goes down it doesn’t matter who is the backup; the Seahawks’ season would be in utter disarray. That could be said for almost every NFL team, but especially Seattle. It relies so heavily on Wilson’s running, throwing and improvisation.
Meanwhile, Smith will join Lynch this summer in the competition...for the spot the Seahawks again do not plan on using.