It seemed that as recently as a couple of weeks ago, any talk about former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn had to include the inevitability of an enormous free-agent contract for the seventh-round pick out of LSU in 2008. The assumption was that despite his two NFL starts, Flynn was ready to lead a team at an elite level. There is some fire behind that smoke -- Flynn performed well against the New England Patriots in 2010, and threw for a franchise-record six touchdown passes against the Detroit Lions in the Packers' 2011 regular-season finale.
Then, two things happened: One, Peyton Manning hit the open market and seemed to be a lot healthier than expected. Two, the Arizona Cardinals prepared to go after Manning, and didn't seem to care if they pushed quarterback Kevin Kolb aside in the process. The first factor pushed Flynn down the food chain, and the second factor made teams a bit more cautious about taking a huge financial chance on a relatively unproven quarterback. The Cardinals made that move with Kolb before the 2011 season, and proved to the world that when you throw serious collateral behind a quarterback who played in a greased-up offense, and your offense isn't quite as effective, you wind up in trouble.
Now, it seems that two teams are interested in Flynn, but each one has climbed down from the roof. The Seattle Seahawks, who hosted Flynn on a Thursday/Friday visit, were not prepared to offer him anywhere near the six-year, $65 million deal the Cards gave Kolb, in addition to a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. ESPN's John Clayton told Seattle radio on Thursday that the Seahawks are most likely to offer Flynn something the neighborhood of $12-15 million over two years.
And despite all the hubbub about Flynn coming to Seattle because Seahawks general manager John Schneider was part of Green Bay's staff when Flynn was drafted, there doesn't seem to be any specific imperative to hand Flynn the starting job, sight-unseen. In fact, that kind of contract would seem to say that Flynn would be competing for a starting role with incumbent Tarvaris Jackson.
The Miami Dolphins, fresh from their unsuccessful attempt to land Manning, are flying Flynn to their facility on Friday to see what it will take for him to be their next franchise quarterback. There's a Green Bay connection here, as well -- new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was the Packers' offensive coordinator from 2007-2011.
While Clayton hypothesized that Flynn might get an offer from the Dolphins somewhere in the four-year, $40 million range, Yahoo's Jason Cole reported on Friday that the Dolphins are "low-balling" Flynn as well, hoping that the appeal of working with Philbin again, in an offense he's familiar with, would offset any financial concerns. A brief review of the NFL historical archives produced a very limited number of quarterbacks who have taken huge pay cuts to remain in familiar schemes, with severe dropoffs at the receiver position.
So, the Dolphins will most likely have to revise their negotiating tactics if they really want Flynn, because the Seahawks are commonly acknowledged as a team just one great quarterback away from a deep playoff run. Miami? Not so much at this time.
Flynn's story is taking a serious backseat to Manning's for obvious reasons, but if he's able to live up to the small sample size the NFL has seen, his could be the more sustaining role from here on out. His ability to do so, and the historical lack of quarterbacks succeeding in similar circumstances, complicate his prospects in the short term.