John Schneider could not have been any more clear during interviews with both 710 ESPN and 950 KJR that he intends to trade Matt Flynn. He even used the same phrase, “I’d be lying if I told you were weren’t going to listen to offers for Matt.” The question becomes what the team can get in return for their starting-quality backup. Draft pick compensation is always an option, but there are unique reasons in this situation that a player may make more sense in return for Flynn.
Seattle has ten picks in the upcoming draft, and is already going to be in a situation where they will be either packaging picks to move up, or trading for more picks in coming years. It makes no sense to bring in ten new draft choices to a team that is largely set in most positions. The most likely scenario will see the Seahawks turn picks this year into higher picks next year (e.g., trade two 2012 6th-round picks for a 2013 4th). Seattle could add more picks to their pile this season for Flynn, or take higher compensation for a pick delayed to 2014, but there certainly is no pressing need to do so.
Flynn is due to make $7M next year. The Seahawks have plenty of cap space, so they do not need to get rid of that salary. Trading for a player could allow them to shift that spend from the quarterback position to another part of the team. Schneider already has to be thinking of spending more money on a front-line receiver, tight end, defensive tackle or defensive end. This trade could allow him to mark an item off his shopping list without having to bid on the open free agent market.
There are a limited number of teams that will be in the market for a new starting quarterback. Nine teams finished with passer ratings below 80.0 in 2012:
Arizona – 63.1
Kansas City – 63.8
NY Jets – 68.3
Cleveland – 73.5
Jacksonville – 74.7
Indianapolis – 76.4
Miami – 76.7
Tennessee – 76.9
Philadelphia – 78.6
Another three teams have quarterback situations that could have their General Managers in the market for a new starter: Oakland, Buffalo, and Minnesota. Let’s eliminate Indianapolis and Miami as they have the quarterbacks of the future already in place. It is probably safe to say Tennessee is also in that category with Jake Locker in just his first season as a starter and a high draft choice invested there. That leaves nine teams with varying levels of interest in acquiring a new starter:
The Vikings made the playoffs last year and Christian Ponder had a season with ups and downs. The ups and the high draft choice spent on him makes them among the less desperate teams for a new starter. Philly has Nick Foles who flashed some promise, and it’s not clear that Chip Kelly wants a player like Flynn. Oakland already spent two first-round picks on Carson Palmer. Cleveland spent a first-round pick on a quarterback just last year. It is unclear whether they are desperate to get a veteran to start in front of him. That leaves four teams that will be targeting the quarterback position as a top priority:
Alex Smith will be the quarterback for one of the teams looking for a starter. He will be almost certainly be cut by the 49ers by March 1st to avoid the team having to pay him more than $1M in salary for 2013. Teams know the 49ers will not keep Smith on the roster, so a trade seems unlikely. The Cardinals will definitely go after Smith, but it is hard to see any free agent quarterback willingly choosing to play against the San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis defenses six times each season. That’s like trying to sign a hitter to play in Safeco Field. Smith may surprise and go to a place like Philly where his under-rated running ability could fit well with what Kelly wants to put on the field. I don’t see Seattle trading Flynn in the division, so let’s really focus on three possible landing spots:
I combed over the roster of each of these teams, and created rough formula to score potential trade targets based on player talent, fit for Seattle’s system and needs, and likely availability of the player. Keep in mind that availability takes into account player age, contract, and how those factors match up with the state of the team. A 29-year-old with a big contract playing for a team like the Chiefs may be more available than one might think. I did not include players like Justin Houston, Darrelle Revis, or Justin Blackmon as there is zero chance their teams will move them.
Kyle Wilson tops the chart as a talented young corner playing for a team with ample talent at that position. Wilson has played a fair amount of nickel corner, and is just 25 years old. It would not surprise me if John Idzik was more motivated to try and move Antonio Cromartie who is older and far more expensive than Wilson. Cromartie’s contract is much closer to Flynn’s, and would actually clear a little cap space for Idzik, who will be desperate to do so. Cromartie may be able to play inside, but he gets marked down on fit with Seattle because it’s not clear he could stick with the smaller players like Danny Amendola. Bringing in his personality and his big salary while Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner make far less would also be a mark against that move on Seattle’s side.
Tyson Alualu is an interesting possibility. He has been battling knee problems, and has had two down seasons after a promising rookie campaign. His contact is something Jacksonville would be thrilled to move, and my early guess is Gus Bradley will be the most eager purser of Flynn after defending him in practice all year. Alualu could hold up better in a heavy rotation at defensive tackle with the Seahawks than he has as a primary starter for the Jaguars. Carroll should know Alualu well from his days at Cal. The Seahawks would likely be okay with taking on the contract for this season, and then look to restructure if he does not live up to it. A guy like Muhammed Wilkerson would be a fantastic addition for Seattle, but I just can’t see the Jets giving him up.
The Chiefs have some intriguing pieces to offer, should they be interested in Flynn. Tony Moeaki would be a terrific weapon to give Russell Wilson, and the value disparity between a starting quarterback and a starting tight end makes that a possibility. Next season is the last year on Moeaki’s contract, which increases the chances that the Chiefs would be willing to move him in the right deal. Seattle could choose to use some of their cap space mid-season to extend Moeaki should they see fit.
Tamba Hali jumps off the list. He is a prodigious pass rusher, and would make any team better. He is, however, 29-years old and will have a $15.5M cap number next season. This was the worst team in football by a long shot last season, and they have a young pass rusher in Houston under wraps for a while. It is unlikely the Chiefs will be contending in Hali’s prime, and they could get a lot out of a younger Flynn and the cap space they would gain. It is not clear to me that the Seahawks would be willing to take on that contract, but the talent is undeniable in an area of need that is tough to address.
Jon Baldwin is a talented, if troubled, young receiver that fits the Carroll mold of tall and fast. I put Ropati Pitoitua on there as a guy that could be a great young 5-tech defensive end. He’s not a guy that a trade would center on, but he could be included if the team can re-sign him at a price the Seahawks agree to.
The Jaguars have a couple linebackers that could be of interest to replace Leroy Hill on the weakside.
There was not a perfect fit on any of these rosters, but Wilson, Moeaki, or Hali would be exciting additions. Alualu’s injury history would make me nervous, but a young disruptive interior pass rusher would be among the most valuable additions a team could make. We will learn more about potential suitors as other pieces fall into place. Schneider will be motivated to make a deal before March 1st to avoid Alex Smith’s release effecting the market. Keep in mind that this examined a one-for-one scenario. The most likely trade will involve draft picks and a player, and possibly multiple players. Seattle can use their extra picks plus Flynn to grab a guy that would not be available in a straight player swap.