Backup or Pack-up?
At this time last season the Seattle Seahawks were in a much different state-of-mind than they are right now. They were coming off a 7-9 season behind the elite quarterbacking skills of Tavaris Jackson (sarcasm hopefully noted) that was more up-and-down than a roller coaster ride at Disneyland.
That being their second consecutive 7-9 season (at least in the regular season — the Seahawks would go on to beat the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round of the 2011 NFL Playoffs and lose to the Bears in the Divisional Round), there was definitely work Seattle needed to do in the offseason to get their program to the next, more consistent level.
Needs that needed to be addressed focused on what to do at quarterback. While Jackson did have his moments of impressive play, they were far too few to justify a second round for him as a solidified starter in the NFL. And so, needing to address a need for more competition at the position, the Seahawks signed Matt Flynn on March 18, 2012.
Though he was not named the starter at the time, Flynn was coming off a free agency that saw him immediately become one of the hottest commodities in the NFL. He had shown, in his brief appearances with Green Bay, that he could throw the ball just as well as any other quarterback in the league while making the proper reads and decisions that would lead his team forward.
But then, when all Seattle media and NFL analysts were projecting Flynn to be the next starter for Seattle, the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft, a move that puzzled many analysts because of his small stature. While he did have skills and the potential to succeed, questions surrounding his 5′ 11″ height shrouded this rookie’s chances at being a starter. At most, people thought, he would slide into a backup role behind Flynn.
Well, we all know the story by now. Seattle named Wilson the starter in a surprising move and while he struggled to get going early on, once the game was put in his hands, he took off and left the rest of the NFL world in awe. The Seattle Seahawks had found their quarterback of the future.
But, in all the awesomeness that was Russell Wilson, Matt Flynn once again was left to stand on the sidelines wondering what would happen with his career. Surely he could not beat out Wilson anymore for a starting spot. At best he would once again be the backup with endless potential to a quarterback who was just too good to bench.
So, with valuable trade stock and a relatively high salary, what should Seattle do with Flynn? Let’s talk about it.
What Seattle Has Said
In a recent statement (January 16th to be exact) John Schneider said that the Seahawks would be open to trading Flynn should the right off come by.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you that we wouldn’t be listening to people. I think we all believe he’s a starter in this league, but we structure ourselves in a salary-cap manner where we’re in a very good position with him,” said Schneider in an interview on 710 ESPN Seattle. “Having two quarterbacks like that is pretty special. We’re going to do what’s best for the organization — period.”
The quote, which paints a picture of the Seahawks being open to trading Flynn despite the potential he has to make Seattle the most dangerous quarterbacking unit in the NFL, resembled what Pete Carroll had to say on the matter during his final press conference this season. During his press conference Carroll stated that Flynn never really accepted the fact that he was a backup to Wilson and believed he was still the better quarterback of the two.
While Carroll was surely joyous with the level of competition this brought to practice, the fact that Wilson will be a starter heading into next season (barring any unexpected offseason injury) copmlicates the Flynn situation further.
All we know from the Seahawks right now is that they are open to listen to inquiries from other teams.
What should Seattle do?
There are three ways the Seahawks can deal with Flynn: keep him as a security blanket on the roster should Wilson get hurt, trade him for a potential draft pick or player, or cut him from the roster and wait to see him be picked up by another team. While the third option is the least likely to occur, the first two options need to be discussed in further detail.
Having Flynn on the roster as a backup to Wilson makes the Seahawks very secure at the quarterback position. Should the unthinkable happen and Wilson go down, Seattle has a very talented quarterback right behind him to fill the role of a starter. Unlike other backups that may show a significant drop in talent (Joe Webb of Minnesota immediately comes to mind), from all indications Flynn would be able to step right into the role of being a starter in the NFL.
While there would be changes to Seattle’s offense and their play calling, Flynn would give Seattle more options in the passing game while complimenting Marshawn Lynch very well. As a security blanket in case of a Wilson injury, you could not ask for a better backup quarterback.
That being said, Flynn will likely not be seeing the playing field unless Wilson gets hurt or the Seahawks are blowing out the Arizona Cardinals again. This is where the option of trading Flynn for a player or draft pick (or both) becomes reasonable.
Seattle has an excess amount of draft picks this year to go on top of their already youthful and very talented roster, leading to the assumption that many of the players drafted this season will likely not make the roster. That is why trading Flynn straight up for another draft pick (likely to be given in the 4th, 5th, or 6th round — we’ll value him higher than Tavaris Jackson) would not seem that useful. Should Seattle package Flynn with a draft pick for a player that they need, however, the options become a little more reasonable.
There is a clear need for the Seahawks to improve at their ability to put pressure on opposing backfields and quarterbacks. While the speed is there at the edges, Seattle’s pass rush in 2012 was too inconsistent not to be further addressed. The need to bring in another, proven player on the line could lead to the possibility of Seattle trading Flynn with a draft pick (or two) to the right team should they be prepared to send a stout defensive lineman to the Seahawks.
While this would take a valuable backup quarterback off the roster, Seattle could potentially draft another quarterback that would fit the new Seattle system a little better — perhaps a Collin Klein or EJ Manuel?
This option, trading Flynn in a packaged deal for a proven defensive lineman while selecting another good quarterback who can run, seems to be the best option out there. Because, though Flynn is a great security blanket at backup quarterback, the adjustments the Seahawks would need to make on offense to accommodate his playing style would be too great to really make a fluid transition.
Instead of Flynn, having an already mobile quarterback who can run the same offense as Wilson seems to be the best option for Seattle.