Russell Wilson’s comeback performance against Atlanta last weekend was the final piece of evidence anyone might have needed that the third-round pick will indeed be the Seahawks’ quarterback for the next decade.
Wilson culminated an amazingly progressive rookie season with a team playoff record of 385 yards passing as he rallied the Hawks to take a 28-27 lead. It wasn’t enough to win because the defense failed at the end, but Wilson showed a national audience that he is not only capable of starting in the NFL but apparently is on the verge of becoming a league star.
Back in March, no one would have guessed Wilson would be the guy leading the Hawks to the precipice of the NFC title game. All odds at that time would have been on Matt Flynn, whom the Hawks signed from Green Bay with the thought — by most anyway — that he would supplant Tarvaris Jackson.
Instead, Wilson snuck up and grabbed the job and never let go. And now Flynn is in the same spot he was in last year at this time — No. 2 QB on a Super Bowl contender.
But he might not be for much longer: Seattle GM John Schneider said this week that he would listen to any offers for Flynn.
“We’ve positioned ourselves from a salary-cap standpoint to be in a great situation where we have two starters,” Schneider told KJR-AM this week. “I think people (teams) recognize that Matt’s a starter and (they) would be willing to do some things, but I’m not sure to what extent. I just think we’re in a really good situation.”
In other words: The Hawks can afford to keep Flynn at his $5.25 million salary and $7.25 million cap number, but they would be willing to trade him for the right price.
“We’re lucky to have him on our team,” Schneider said, “but I would be lying to you if I said we weren’t going to listen to people.”
The good news for both Flynn and the Seahawks is that it appears they might be able to find a viable trade partner, especially in light of various coaching shakeups around the league.
Three recent moves worked highly in Flynn/Seattle’s favor: Andy Reid and John Dorsey taking over in Kansas City; Gus Bradley becoming coach in Jacksonville; and John Idzik being named general manager of the New York Jets. Add in Schneider’s connections to the Oakland Raiders, and the Hawks would seem to have plenty of possible options for making a deal.
Dorsey worked with Schneider in Green Bay, so there is a natural line of communication there and Dorsey is familiar with Flynn because he helped draft him. Plus, the Chiefs will be running the West Coast offense under Andy Reid. Perfect fits for Flynn.
It seems unlikely that Dorsey and Reid will want to keep Matt Cassel, who fell out of favor with the previous regime. Then it comes down to whether they want to use the first pick in the draft on a quarterback or use that pick on another player and find a quarterback through other means.
The Hawks also have a natural connection to the Jaguars now that Bradley, their former defensive coordinator, is the coach there.
The question is whether the Jags are going to want to wipe the QB slate clean, which would mean giving up on former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert and also pushing aside Chad Henne. Bradley knows what Flynn offers, so the question is whether Flynn is the type of QB Bradley wants for his offense, which will be run by one-time Seattle QB coach Jedd Fisch.
Asked about Flynn when he was hired, Bradley told reporters, “He’s on the Seattle roster right now. He’s a Seahawk.”
Another option, albeit a long shot, is the Jets, who are now going to be run by Idzik, who was Schneider’s No. 2 personnel guy the last three years. Idzik inherits a horrible cap situation, with the Jets reportedly $20 million over the cap and on the hook for $8.25 million to QB Mark Sanchez.
The Jets will be running the West Coast offense under new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, which would be a good fit for Flynn, but the Jets are probably not in position to add Flynn’s salary. However, if the Hawks do not trade Flynn this offseason, the Jets would be a team to watch next year.
The Raiders are another long shot option. Carson Palmer is due $13 million in 2013, and he has not played well enough to deserve it. GM Reggie McKenzie, who was with the Packers when Schneider was, might decide to part ways with Palmer. That would leave them in need of a passer.
Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland and Philadelphia are other teams that could look for new QBs this year.
In Arizona, new coach Bruce Arians will have to evaluate Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Findley.
In Buffalo, new coach Doug Marrone will have to decide whether Ryan Fitzpatrick should remain as the signal caller.
In Cleveland, new GM Mike Lombardi and coach Rob Chudzinski have to decide whether they are going to stay with 2012 first-round pick Brandon Weeden.
In Philly, new coach Chip Kelly must decide what to do with Michael Vick and Nick Foles.
Schneider has a history of making deals with Buffalo GM Buddy Nix (Marshawn Lynch and Tarvaris Jackson) and with Philly (Chris Clemons), so he has plenty of connections through which to talk about a deal for Flynn.
The key will be compensation, and you have to think Schneider won’t take anything less than a second-round pick for Flynn. The best option might be a second or third this year plus a conditional pick in 2014 that depends on how Flynn plays next season.
It’s entirely possible the Hawks get no decent offers for Flynn, whether because teams don’t see him as a starter or because there will be other options — Alex Smith, Palmer, Vick, Cassel, Kolb, et al. In that case, the Hawks surely will be fine with the status quo for another year.
But they already are thinking about life without Flynn, having discussed the need to find a backup with similar skills to Wilson. They seem intrigued by some of the mobile quarterbacks in this draft.
“We’ve talked a lot about that,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters. “It would be nice to have another guy that might be able to be a factor that way. There’s some really good kids out there. We’ll see.”