Will Drew Lock return to the Seahawks as Geno Smith's backup?

Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider said recently that re-signing both starting QB Geno Smith and backup Drew Lock would be the team's "ideal situation." Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

It sounds more likely than not that the Seattle Seahawks will re-sign starting quarterback Geno Smith.

In an interview last month with Seattle’s 93.3 KJR-FM, general manager John Schneider answered in the affirmative when asked if he expects it to happen. More recently, Smith told SiriusXM NFL Radio from the Pro Bowl that contract talks have started and that the prospects of a deal with Seattle are “looking very good.” Absent an agreement, the Seahawks would have the franchise tag in their back pocket as a potential Plan B.

So what about Drew Lock?

It’s the Seahawks’ other quarterback question, and the one that’s much harder to predict. Lock is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, having just played the final season of the rookie contract the Seahawks inherited when they acquired him in the Russell Wilson trade last March. But unlike Smith, Lock seems destined to hit the open market.

In the same radio interview, Schneider said re-signing Lock to remain Smith’s backup would be the “ideal situation.” Lock likes the organization and Smith, but he also likes playing. And with a front-row seat to Smith’s remarkable comeback season, he got a jolt of confidence that he can do so at a high level if given the opportunity.

“[Geno] played his ass off all year, taught me a lot in the process,” Lock told ESPN after the Seahawks’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the wild-card round. “… He’s had a hell of a career fighting back to get to the position that he was in this year. It’s a testament to who he is as a player, but at the same time also gives some light to me.

“I wasn’t in near the position he was, being behind Russell for multiple years, [but] it gives guys like myself or some backups around the league [a reminder that] we’re all really, really good. We’re all here for a reason. We’re all here for a purpose. It was inspiring to be a part of it.”

It’s easy to see why the Seahawks would want to re-sign Lock as opposed to drafting a rookie or signing another veteran to fill that role. He’s only 26 with plenty of talent and developmental upside. He also has starting experience and a year under his belt in Shane Waldron’s offense.

The downside is that unlike a draft pick, he wouldn’t come with four years of club control. And he might not be as cheap. It’s not like the Seahawks are hurting for cap space -- they’re in the top 10 with around $30 million before cuts and restructures -- but they can’t afford to sign Smith to a big deal and write Lock a blank check to back him up.

ESPN polled three NFL agents and a contract analyst for their thoughts on the types of deals both quarterbacks will command. All four projected Smith to get somewhere between $30 and $35 million per year, including one who thinks he’ll get the franchise tag at $32.42 million.

Their predictions on Lock were more mixed. Two of them doubt he’ll get more than the minimum salary (which for him would be $1.08 million) on a one-year deal. The other two think he’ll have a bigger market than that, with one predicting a one-year, $3 million deal worth around $2.5 million guaranteed.

“He has talent, was an early second-round pick and is only 26,” that insider said, adding that “there are enough QB-needy teams out there to drive his price up,” despite his underwhelming resume over the three seasons in which he’s seen game action: an 8-13 record as a starter, a 59.3% completion rate and 25 touchdowns to 20 interceptions.

One quarterback-needy team that could have interest in Lock is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who just hired Seahawks quarterbacks coach Dave Canales to be their offensive coordinator.

After the Seahawks acquired Lock from the Broncos, Schneider said he was aware of “a couple” other general managers who had tried to trade for him the year before. Lock was one of the main reasons the Seahawks sent Wilson to Denver and many in the organization believed he was the favorite to win the starting job.

Lock was up and down over the summer, showing the talent that made him a second-round pick and a Seahawks trade target, while also making the kinds of mistakes that kept him from holding down the starting job in Denver. He played well enough for one stretch to begin gaining ground on Smith until a bout with COVID-19 halted his momentum. When he returned, his poor performance in the preseason finale sealed the deal in Smith’s favor.

Lock never saw the field in the regular season as Smith played every offensive snap. Nonetheless, he described his time with the Seahawks as “amazing.”

“Being in one place for the first three years, you’re nervous coming into a new place,” he told ESPN. “Everything’s new … Offense is new. Players are new. You’ve got to learn chemistry with everybody. I think how the organization brought me in, treated me when I got here, was top-notch. I appreciate everyone that’s worked with me this year and I appreciate this team, I think more than people may understand …”

In his season-ending news conference, Carroll praised Lock for the positive attitude he maintained, despite not getting a chance to play. That’s another reason why the Seahawks want to bring him back – they know the vibe in their quarterback room is strong.

“He had a really good experience,” Carroll said of Lock. “He worked great with the coaches. We really appreciated his talent and his work ethic, and even more so, his mentality and support of Geno. He and Geno were buddies through the whole thing. They helped each other. Sean Mannion was part of that as well.

“He doesn’t know what’s coming up. He’s got to wait and see, but we’d love to have him back and keep growing with him.”