ATHENS — Carson Beck is the highest-rated NFL quarterback prospect in the hunt for a CFP spot, per ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

Thing is, Beck might not even be declaring himself eligible for the NFL Draft, as sources have said Georgia is trying to put together a financial incentive package to keep him.

Beck’s focus for now is on finding a way to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game at 4 p.m. on Saturday -- something no Georgia player or coach has done.

Talk of ongoing player negotiations -- everywhere -- is to be expected with the NCAA transfer portal opening on Dec. 4, and early signing day fast approaching.

It only makes sense Smart wants to know which UGA players intend to come back so he can communicate that to others who may want to enter the portal, particularly at the quarterback position.

Smart has won back-to-back national titles and could be on his way to a third because of his expertise in roster management, which he explained involves a very detailed process.

RELATED: Why Kirby is the master of modern day roster management

Talk of Beck landing a deal worth more than a million dollars is not at all surprising when one considers today’s college football landscape, where “a good quarterback in the portal costs $1 million $1.5 million, $2 million right now,” per Nebraska coach Matt Rhule.

Indeed, sources claimed that Caleb Williams had a deal approaching $4 million to play his final two seasons at USC, an offer UGA would not match as it also pursued him in the portal following the 2021 championship season.

Kiper’s QB ratings came out last week on his updated “Big Board,” where he lists USC’s Williams the top QB, North Carolina’s Drake Maye second, Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders third, LSU’s Jayden Daniels fourth and Beck fifth -- ahead of Oregon’s Bo Nix, who ranks sixth.

Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told ON3 the only reason Beck hasn’t been invited to the Senior Bowl — juniors are now eligible — is out of respect to Kirby Smart trying to keep Beck at Georgia.

“When we do our calls with NFL teams, some of the best information that came up on the calls this year was like, ‘Hey Jim, I was just through Athens and they’re trying to keep Carson Beck,’ " Nagy said, per On3.

“So, the (UGA) staff wants to keep Carson Beck so we didn’t send an invite to Carson Beck. I’ve known Kirby Smart a long time, those relationships with the college coaches mean everything to us here.”

Georgia linebacker Smael Mondon, also ranked No. 5 at his position per Kiper’s pay-site article, is another player the Bulldogs will negotiate with to stay another season.

But if Beck or Mondon decide to go pro, Nagy has indicated there’s time to add them after he speaks to Smart again.

“I was going to wait until after the season to reach out to the head coach,” Nagy said. “Like, I’ll let Kirby get through the SEC Championship Game …. "

Nagy said he’ll follow with a call to learn what Beck decides to do, and if he chooses to pursue his NFL career Nagy said “We certainly want him to play in our game … he’s gaining a lot of traction right now in the NFL scouting community.”

Georgia figures to be well represented at the Senior Bowl, which has an NFL convention feel to it with owners, general managers, head coaches and entire staffs on hand to watch and evaluate the players in full-padded drill work in person.

Players like Kamari Lassiter, Javon Bullard, Sedrick Van Pran, Nazir Stackhouse and Ladd McConkey are all popular all-star game targets and are also expected to be invited to the Senior Bowl.

Georgia players like Kendall Milton, Daijun Edwards and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint are working hard to get on those lists, too.

Bottom line, the NFL has its ways of finding and evaluating the talent.

But in the case of players like Beck and Mondon, Nagy shared how the Senior Bowl has stayed backed off to give Smart time to negotiate deals to potentially keep those players should they choose to stay at Georgia another season.

The Bulldogs have had 34 players selected in the NFL draft over the past three seasons, including 10 last year.

Beck did not go through Georgia Senior Bowl activities before the Ole Miss game.