NFL sets 2023 salary cap. Seahawks have room to keep Geno Smith, help defense. How much?

The NFL has set each team’s salary cap for the coming year.

The Seahawks have enough space under it to re-sign Geno Smith — and to remake their defense back toward championship-level — for 2023.

The question remains: Exactly how much?

The league informed teams Monday the salary cap will be $224.8 million for 2023. That’s up from $208.2 million in 2022, and $182.5 million in the COVID-affected 2021 season.

The added $16.6 million per team available to spend on player contracts in 2023 is attributable to the NFL realizing for the first time this year revenues from its new media-rights contracts.

The Seahawks are estimated to have $31.34 million in cap room for 48 contracted players for 2023, per spotrac. That’s the sixth-most cap space in the league. They would need about $10 million of that for the 10 picks Seattle currently owns in April’s draft, including the fifth and 20th choices in Round 1.

Signs remain the Seahawks will re-sign Smith. Soon, they hope.

General manager John Schneider has spent some of the two weeks since the Seahawks lost at the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC wild-card playoffs on Seattle’s sports-radio stations. He’s been assessing his team’s 2022 season and process for re-signing Smith, who broke Seahawks passing records and made the Pro Bowl in his first season replacing traded franchise quarterback Russell Wilson.

Afternoon host Ian Furness of KJR radio asked Schneider last week: Do you expect to get Smith re-signed?

“Yeah. Yeah, we do,” Schneider said.

That echoed what coach Pete Carroll has said this month.

“The plan’s in place,” Schneider said. “Now it’s about executing the plan.

“We know what we have to fix. It just showed up out there on the field (in the playoff loss to the 49ers, who gained 505 yards, 181 of them rushing, and scored 41 points on Seattle).

“Now it’s time to go do it.”

The first to-do is re-signing Smith. His salary was $3.5 million for 2022. He doubled his pay in incentives for the season that revitalized the 32-year-old veteran’s career.

He stands to earn a raise eight to 10 times his salary for this past season, perhaps $25 million to $30 million per year. It would be his first multiyear contract since the rookie deal he signed with the New York Jets in 2013. He’s played eight seasons for four teams on a series of one-year contracts, all but in 2022 as a backup.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) walks off of the field after defeating the New York Jets 23-6 in an NFL game at Lumen Field in Seattle Wash. on Jan. 1, 2023.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) walks off of the field after defeating the New York Jets 23-6 in an NFL game at Lumen Field in Seattle Wash. on Jan. 1, 2023.

The process to re-sign Smith

Smith said about an hour after the playoff loss at San Francisco he wants to retire with the Seahawks.

“I want to finish my career in Seattle,” Smith said Jan. 14.

“I want to be here. The town, the city, the team, Coach Carroll, the organization, they all embraced me. I was a guy who probably could have been out of the league. They embraced me.

“I want to re-pay them for that.”

Schneider’s, chief contract executive Matt Thomas’ and the Seahawks’ task is to not let Smith get to free agency that begins with the new league year March 15. Seattle intends to re-sign him to a deal with up-front cash guarantees and a salary-cap hit spread across the multiple years of the contract, to keep him from learning what the open market might bear for him.

It might be a price higher than Seattle wants or should pay, with its pressing need to improve the front seven of its defense.

One way the Seahawks could keep Smith off the market yet without reaching agreement on a multi-year contract: using the franchise tag. But that would cost Seattle $32,416,000 against its cap for 2023. That’s the quarterback franchise-tag number for this year. Teams can’t prorate that cap hit for tags, as they can for multiyear contracts.

That tag number would use most of the Seahawks’ cap space for this year and likely result in veterans getting cut to create more cap room for other offseason moves.

Per NFL rules on tagged players, the Seahawks could in that scenario use the tag to buy time with Smith on a longer-term deal. The team could continue to negotiate with Smith on a multiyear contract into the summer after using its franchise tag on him. But while they would be doing that they would be limiting their buying power for other positions all offseason.

“I met with Geno on his exit interview. We had a great talk. He knows what the process is going to be,” Schneider said on KJR last week.

“Would love to have him back. He knows that. Like he’s said, he’d love to be back here, as well.”

Schneider also said of Smith: “He knows it’s about the entire team and putting this whole thing together, and that it’s going to be a process.”

That is an indication how Smith’s contract, specifically how much of that $31 million in cap space it will take up, will shape Seattle’s buying power for the rest of the roster and offseason.

“Right now, in terms of receivers and quarterbacks, those (contract) numbers have really taken off. And, sure, that definitely makes it more challenging,” Schneider said.

“So how do you figure out how to compensate in other areas of acquisition (across the roster)?

“Like any negotiation, you have a drop-dead number,” Schneider said. “And you have to be able to work within those constraints to try to field the most competitive team you possibly can, and a championship team, and try to put that together.”

Schneider indicated he has a good relationship with Smith’s agents, headed by Chafie Fields of the Wasserman Media Group.

“Geno has a really, really good group of guys that he works with, and we don’t see a problem with it moving forward,” Seattle’s GM said.

“In terms of getting it done, it’s a process. Hoping we can get it 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.”

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) walks off the field after an NFL wild card playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) walks off the field after an NFL wild card playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

GM assesses the season

Before talking on KJR, Schneider spoke on Seattle’s KIRO-AM radio, the Seahawks’ flagship station.

Schneider called the 49ers “the biggest, strongest, fastest football team in the National Football League.”

“And we’ve got to get back to that,” Schneider said Jan. 19 on KIRO, “no questions asked.”

After Schneider and Carroll traded Wilson to Denver, cut All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner on the same March Tuesday to save $16.6 million in cap space for 2022 and installed Smith as their new quarterback, many around the league thought Seattle would be a last-place team. Las Vegas oddsmakers set the Seahawks’ win total for this past season at plus or minus five.

They won nine games, after getting off to a 6-3 start that had them atop the NFC West into November. Seattle made the playoffs for the 10th time in Carroll’s and Schneider’s 13 years running the team.

Asked on KIRO if he considers the 2022 Seahawks season a success, Schneider said: “Yeah ... a huge success in what all would consider a transition season.

“Hey, look, the whole organization, I’m proud of everybody. ...We put the walls up and we hunkered down. We took a lot of crud all (last) summer.”

Drew Lock situation

Schneider said what Carroll has said this month: The Seahawks would like to re-sign Drew Lock. Smith’s backup didn’t take a snap in the 2022 season before his contract Seattle inherited from Denver as part of the Wilson trade last March also expired.

“Yeah, we’d love to (re-sign Lock, too),” Schneider told KJR. “We think that would be an ideal situation.”

Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks Drew Lock (2) and Geno Smith (7) run onto the field before an NFL wild card playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks Drew Lock (2) and Geno Smith (7) run onto the field before an NFL wild card playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

Lock told The News Tribune this month the day after the Seahawks’ season ended he feels Seattle is a “special” place with its locker-room environment and coaching, and that he learned a lot this past season.

Lock, 25 and the former Broncos starter, also said: “But as a competitor, I want to play.”