Still a free agent and facing the end of his illustrious NFL career, K.J. Wright hasn't given up hope on returning to the Seahawks. In the meantime, he's got plenty of opinions on what the franchise should do at quarterback in the aftermath of Russell Wilson's departure.
Guest starring on the "I Am Athlete Tonight" show on Sirius XM, Wright gave a vote of confidence for former teammate Geno Smith, who served as Wilson's backup for each of the past three seasons.
“I’ll tell you not Baker Mayfield,” Wright told I Am Athlete Tonight on SiriusXM. “Not Drew Lock. We ain’t gonna play those games. I’m team Geno all day.”
Wright, 32, squared off against Smith on the practice field regularly during their two seasons as teammates and like many players on the Seahawks' current roster, he respects the veteran signal caller a great deal. During the interview, he lauded the ex-West Virginia star for his arm strength, football IQ, and overall command of the offense, traits that he believes make him the best candidate to supplant Wilson.
“Geno was good,” Wright said facing Smith. “He was scout team quarterback. The dude has a cannon for an arm. He’s intellectual, you know, having those two-minute drills during practice throughout the week, the man can play. Just trust him, just trust Geno."
Throughout the offseason, coach Pete Carroll has reiterated that Smith has the edge over newcomer Drew Lock, who was acquired from the Broncos as part of the Wilson trade in March, due to his knowledge of offensive coordinator Shane Waldron's offense. When Wilson suffered a ruptured tendon in his right middle finger in Week 5 and underwent surgery, the veteran stepped in and played admirably, completing nearly 70 percent of his pass attempts with five touchdowns and only one interception.
While Seattle only managed to win one of the three games he started in place of Wilson, Smith kept the team in every game, nearly pulling off a second half comeback on the road in Pittsburgh and falling just short in a three-point loss to New Orleans in consecutive weeks. Everything came together in his final start as he completed 20 out of 24 passes for 195 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 31-7 blowout victory over Jacksonville.
Playing well in his first extended regular season action since 2017, Smith gained the respect and admiration of his teammates in the locker room as well as Carroll and the coaching staff. Not surprisingly, Carroll indicated he remained out in front in the competition coming out of this month's mandatory minicamp, though Lock has made up some ground heading towards training camp.
"The competition is in great shape and you can tell that Geno has been here, you can feel that, and he's taken full advantage of that. It's good for us, we didn't hesitate to do anything. We can do everything we've done in the years past, so we're off and flying, here we go," Carroll said.
When Seattle first traded Wilson in March, many speculated Lock would be the favorite to start due to his youth and obvious physical talents. Carroll and general manager John Schneider both emphasized that they felt tough circumstances in Denver contributed to his struggles and a fresh start could get him back on track. At the time, Smith wasn't under contract and remained a free agent.
Expectedly, the Seahawks have also been persistently linked to Mayfield, who the Browns replaced by trading for controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson shortly after Wilson was sent to the Broncos. Even with a suspension looming for Watson, it seems unlikely the organization will be able to reconcile differences with the former No. 1 overall pick, whose $18.585 million fully guaranteed salary in 2022 has prevented a trade from happening to this point.
From Wright's perspective, even with recent reports further stoking the fire in regard to a potential Mayfield trade, he doesn't think the Seahawks need to make such a move. He also clearly doesn't view Lock as a superior option to Smith either and made some interesting comments about what should happen to the player who loses the competition out of camp and the preseason.
"What I said was, whoever you decide to be your starting quarterback, the other guy has got to leave," Wright explained. "You cannot have both those guys in the building throughout the season. Because what’s gonna happen? Let’s say game three or four they’re not playing as well. What are the fans gonna do?... ‘Put the backup in.’ And so to hell with all that, whoever’s the starting quarterback, the other guy, you’ve got to trade him or cut him.”
Considering Lock was a key part of the Wilson trade, it's unlikely the Seahawks would follow Wright's advice if Smith does hold onto the starting job and beats him out. Or vice versa. Having a quality backup with starting experience in the NFL is invaluable and other teams won't be lining up to trade for either player either barring injuries.
Still, given how he's revered by the organization, Wright's opinion on who he believes should start for Seattle shouldn't be taken lightly and may be taken under advisement. He faced off against Mayfield during the 2019 season and has also seen Lock in action. In comparison, impressed by Smith's arm talent, intelligence, and leadership skills from their time together, he believes the veteran would give Carroll's squad the best chance to win games and stay competitive in the NFC West in 2022.