Since the Green Bay Packers declined to use their franchise tag on reserve quarterback Matt Flynn, the Aaron Rodgers understudy will become an unrestricted free agent this month. Then came news Tuesday that the Indianapolis Colts will release Peyton Manning into free agency, mostly to avoid having to pay him a $28 million roster bonus if he remained on the roster Thursday.
If you were the Seahawks, would you pursue Flynn, Manning or neither?
Had the Packers franchised Flynn, they could have matched any offer another team made, or attempted to trade Flynn and his one-year, $14 million salary — more than Rodgers makes — for draft picks. Instead each NFL team now has a chance to bid for him.
The Miami Dolphins are considered the favorites to land Flynn, who will be 27 in June, but now that Manning, 36 this month and coming off spinal fusion surgery, is officially available, the intrigue deepens for all teams with immediate needs at QB who don’t have one of the top two picks in the draft, which includes the Seahawks.
With the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL draft, the Colts are expected to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and build around him, not Manning, who intrigues the Dolphins perhaps more than Flynn does. The No. 2 pick, owned by St. Louis, is for sale, if you believe the Rams in their claim of sincere happiness with third-year QB Sam Bradford and will trade away the pick that is almost certain to be Robert Griffin III of Baylor.
Flynn has appeared in just 34 games in his four-year NFL career since 2008, making two starts. But in those two starts, Dec. 19, 2010 vs. New England and Jan. 1 vs. Detroit, Flynn threw for 731 yards and nine touchdowns. In the second start, Flynn lit up the Lions with 480 yards and six touchdowns, finishing with a passer rating of 136.4.
Those numbers are expected to sweeten Flynn’s bank account by millions. Manning already has his millions, and is looking for the right fit to close out his stellar 14-year career.
The issue is whether Flynn or Manning, who did not play in 2011 after three neck surgeries in 19 months, should do their branch banking in Renton, where the Seahawks train.
Your yea or nay vote here will stem from the confidence, or lack thereof, you have in Seattle’s incumbent, Tarvaris Jackson, and whether you believe he played himself into the role of long-term solution during the 2011 season.
Jackson did a respectable enough job in quarterbacking the Seahawks to a 7-9 record, throwing for 3,091 yards with a 60.2 completion percentage and a 79.2 passer rating. He offset 14 touchdown passes with 13 interceptions, eight of which came in a five-game stretch between Sept. 25 and Nov. 11.
Jackson had his most efficient performance in a 31-14 win over Philadelphia Dec. 1, when he completed 13 of 16 passes and threw one TD and no interceptions. Jackson was also the biggest reason Seattle got itself hosed at Dallas Nov. 6, tossing three interceptions and ending with a 40.4 passer rating.
No one believes that Jackson, now a six-year veteran, will develop into a Pro Bowl quarterback, much less a franchise one. But most also believe that Jackson is good enough to steer Pete Carroll’s run-oriented offense until someone better comes along (many draft “experts” have encouraged the Seahawks to take a quarterback relatively high, if for no other reason than to give Jackson competition).
The availability of Flynn and Manning changes the Seahawks equation: As a team well under the salary cap, they can afford either veteran, but would have little left to pursue other free agents. They would, however, hold into their first-round pick, 12th overall.
Manning has been given medical clearance to resume his career, but he is a shorter-term answer that comes with higher injury risk. Flynn is younger, healthier and comes from a franchise that has employed Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck and Rodgers in the past decade. His time is now.
Jackson, who likely will improve with a full training camp and a second season here, makes only $4 million for one more year, meaning the treasury can be expended to fix other holes.
Tough call. Make one.