Matt Flynn in the 2012 preseason. (AP)
The Seattle Seahawks unquestionably gamed free agency this year, adding star players at key positions of need on both sides of the ball. They traded for ex-Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, and then signed Harvin to a long-term contract to add explosiveness to their passing game, Then, they nabbed two of the more prominent pass-rushers in Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, leading many analysts to assume that a team that already went 11-5 in 2012 could very well be on the way to a Super Bowl run.
However, two things still bedevil head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. First, the loss of the first-round pick in the Harvin deal -- Schneider is a hard-core draftnik, and though he had no issue giving up the pick for a player of Harvin's potential value, you know he'd want more chips in later rounds. And then, there's the Matt Flynn situation. The former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback signed with the Seahawks before the 2012 season, and his three-year, $19.5 million contract would have seemed to insure him the starting position for his new team.
Then ... well, Russell Wilson happened, and Flynn was put very much on the back burner. 26 regular-season touchdowns, one playoff win, and one near playoff comeback later, Wilson, a third-round rookie, had redefined Seattle's quarterback situation in ways few could have imagined. And with a weak free-agent market at the position, not to mention a draft class full of iffy quarterbacks, it was just a matter of time before Flynn's name became a hot one on the trade market.
According to one report, that time is now. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported on Tuesday that three teams are talking to the Seahawks about acquiring Flynn's services. La Canfora says that the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, and Buffalo Bills are in the mix, and though the market for Flynn has been lukewarm to date, a trade could happen before the draft in late April.
The Jaguars would be a sensible destination for a couple of reasons. New head coach Gus Bradley was Carroll's defensive coordinator from 2010 through 2012, and though the Jags are pretty clearly ready to move on from Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville may want to use their second overall draft pick on a lineman, or other player with more pure talent than any draftable quarterback. The Raiders need a competent starter because they're almost certainly going to cut ties with Carson Palmer unless Palmer reverses course and chooses to re-structure his currently ginormous 2013 cap number. They have the third overall pick and may also want to avoid reaching for a quarterback just because. And the Bill recently released quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Many people have tied new Bills head coach Doug Marrone to Ryan Nassib, Marrone's signal-caller at Syracuse, But very few people see Nassib as a first-round pick, and the Bills pick eighth in the first round.
If the Seahawks could move Flynn and nab a couple of mid-round picks in return, it would benefit them in two ways. First, it would add cap space to Seattle's current level of approximately $6 million, and Schneider has recently expressed that he and Carroll are already trying to extend the contacts of Seattle's younger stars. And Schneider is one of the NFL's best at turning mid-round picks into roster gold. Wilson came in the third round of the 2012 draft, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman was taken in the fifth round a year before, and elite safety Kam Chancellor showed up in the fifth round a year before that. Adding some more picks to this year's draft would take some of the sting out of losing that first-round pick for Schneider, because he knows how to use them.
Then again, the Seahawks may choose to hang on to Flynn as a reliable backup. Wilson is a mobile quarterback who puts himself in harm's way more than most, and Seattle doesn't have a clear backup plan that doesn't involve Flynn. They'd either have to troll the bargain bin or draft Wilson's backup, and they may decide in the end that with a championship-level roster, having a reasonably sure thing at the game's most important position is worth the salary hit.
Obviously, Flynn would like the chance to prove that he can be an NFL starter. Wilson took that chance away from him based on pure merit. Other NFL teams have far more tenuous quarterback situations.
"Matt has handled himself really well," Carroll said at his end-of-season press conference in January. "He never accepted [the demotion, and] I never expected him to, I wanted him to fight the whole way. If it made him grumpy at times, then that was what was going to happen. He handled it like a real champion kid. He competed in practice on a regular basis, he never did want to accept, and he still thinks he’s the best quarterback in the program and I admire him for thinking that way. I’ll forever regret the fact that we never got to chance to see him play very much. Everything he did was on point; Russell Wilson just never let it happen. As we move forward we’re going to figure it out.
"We’re fortunate that we have two very good quarterbacks in the program."
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