With Russell Wilson securing the title as the NFL’s highest-paid player and tied to the franchise through 2023, the Seahawks championship window remains wide open.
But behind Wilson, Seattle will once again roll out a new backup for a fourth consecutive season, as the organization hasn’t proven itself capable of drafting and developing a young signal caller to wait in the wings as general manager John Schneider planned.
Instead, since Tarvaris Jackson’s exit after the 2015 season, the Seahawks have had to play musical chairs behind Wilson over the past three seasons. After being forced to release promising quarterback Trevone Boykin due to persistent off-field issues, Austin Davis served as the primary backup in 2017 and then lost his job when Seattle acquired Brett Hundley from Green Bay prior to the start of the 2018 regular season.
Following Hundley’s anticipated departure to join the Cardinals in free agency, the Seahawks chose not to use one of their 11 draft picks on a young quarterback, sticking with former Broncos first-round bust Paxton Lynch and signing former Jets starter Geno Smith on May 15 to compete against him.
With Wilson entrenched as the starter for the foreseeable future, which former failed starter will win the right to hold a clipboard on Seattle’s sideline in 2019?
Case for Paxton Lynch
There’s never been a question about talent when it comes to Lynch. The 6-foot-7, 244-pound quarterback possesses the arm strength to make every throw in the NFL and thrived throwing the deep ball at Memphis, completing nearly 50 percent of his attempts on passes 20 yards or further. Though it didn’t necessarily translate to his brief time in Denver, he also did an excellent job of limiting turnovers in college, throwing just four interceptions on 443 attempts as a junior.
While he’s far from the same mold as Wilson, Lynch also offers surprising athleticism for his size and has prior experience running the read-option at Memphis. He ran for 13 touchdowns as a sophomore and then-coach Justin Fuente implemented plenty of rollouts and boot legs to take advantage of his mobility in their offensive attack, so if he was forced into action, he should be able to execute Seattle’s offense without a hitch.
Case for Geno Smith
Unlike Lynch, Smith held onto a starting job with the Jets for two full seasons, so if experience matters in this competition, the strong-armed, quick-firing passer holds a significant advantage. He threw nearly four times as many passes as Lynch when comparing their first two seasons and while poor decision-making and accuracy issues plagued him as a rookie, he trimmed his interception total from 21 to 13 and improved his completion rate by nearly five percent in 2014, indicating significant progress as a passer.
Despite suffering a torn ACL in 2015, Smith also possesses superior athletic traits in comparison to Lynch that should mesh well with Seattle’s offensive scheme. He didn’t run the football much orchestrating West Virginia’s spread attack at the college level, but he proved himself capable of extending plays with his legs and emerged as a rushing threat during his time as a starter with the Jets, rushing for 704 yards and scoring seven touchdowns on the ground.
This race could go down to the wire, as Lynch and Smith both have plenty of physical tools and unfortunately couldn’t put it together with their original teams due to a variety of factors.
Some could argue Lynch didn’t receive a legitimate chance to prove himself on the field in Denver, but as his confidence withered, he regressed with limited chances on the field and hasn’t shown any signs of being a capable NFL quarterback to this point. Though a change of scenery could work wonders for him, there’s no guarantee he’ll suddenly figure things out in Seattle.
Smith, on the other hand, did at one time show promise before injuries prevented him from re-claiming his starting job with the Jets. While he’s unlikely to ever be considered as a starter again and finds himself on his fourth team in four years, his overall skill set seems to be a better fit in Seattle’s offense and ultimately, his on-field experience and athleticism will be the difference makers as he snags the backup job in August.