Seahawks traded QB Flynn before his deductible got too high

April 3, 2013 

Yes, insurance offers peace of mind. But sometimes the policy cost and the deductible just make it seem unworthy of the expense.

Backup quarterbacks in the National Football League are often viewed as valuable insurance against injuries to the high-profile and often very expensive starter.

It’s a conservative investment. Cautious. But maybe overrated in some cases.

By shipping veteran backup Matt Flynn to the Oakland Raiders for a pair of low draft picks, the Seahawks are saving money and salary cap room.

And in a bigger sense they’re making a statement about second-year starter Russell Wilson, and their philosophy of manipulating the depth chart at the most important position on the team.

Wilson was one of 20 quarterbacks who started all 16 games last season. Another five started 15, leaving only seven teams calling on a backup to start, and most of those were the result of performance issues.

Wilson offered far more than just durability, tying a rookie record with 26 touchdown passes and setting a franchise record with a 100.0 passer rating while leading the Hawks into the divisional round of the playoffs.

But he relinquished the huddle to Flynn only for short periods late in three blowouts.

Wilson was sacked 33 times and totaled 94 rushes (by design or necessity). But he took only a few big hits all season. His name never appeared on a weekly injury list.

I don’t think he was seen limping or grimacing or needing

to be examined by trainers. And not only did he never show signs of being injured, he never even looked out of breath.

There was not really much visual evidence that the man perspires.

The presumptive starter when he was picked up as a free agent last off-season, Flynn was relegated to backup when Wilson, a third-round rookie, put a stranglehold on the position in the exhibition season.

Through the years, the Seahawks have expended first-round draft picks on quarterbacks with less talent than Flynn showed during the exhibition season, so he was mostly a victim of timing and circumstance rather than his own shortcomings.

By trading him now, the Hawks pick up the draft picks (reportedly a fifth-rounder in 2014 and a conditional pick in 2015). They get $3.25 million subtracted from the salary cap spread sheet.

Considering how unlikely it was the Hawks would retain him for 2014, when his cap figure would balloon to more than $8 million, Flynn was a short-timer anyway.

With two more non-negotiable seasons on his rookie contract, Wilson is a stunning bargain. As the only quarterback currently on the roster, he’s costing the Hawks a laughable $681,000 in cap space.

Detroit, for instance, has $20.8 million in cap money tied up with quarterback Matt Stafford. So, you ask yourself, would you rather have Stafford or Russell Wilson and $20 million?

Hawks fans will now wish Flynn well since quality play will enhance the value of that conditional pick down the road. However, the move may have NFC West Division impact, as veteran Carson Palmer was traded from the Raiders to Arizona.

Palmer is 33 and goes to a team with issues at offensive line and running back, but just putting on a Cardinals jersey should make him an improvement over the players taking snaps in Arizona last season.

Speculation is that former Seahawks backup Josh Portis will be brought back as a cheap reserve whose quickness with the ball will make him an understudy with physical talents more closely akin to Wilson’s.

Seattle’s front office is too unpredictable to expect there won’t be more changes in store.

As for Flynn, he didn’t have much chance to make an impression. Once Wilson solidified his status, Flynn was mostly invisible, without much testimony whether he was a good, supportive soldier or not.

In the final game against the Falcons, though, I had the binoculars on Wilson when he was on the bench late in the game. Flynn was beside him, actively pointing to photos of the Atlanta defenses.

And after the loss and before they exited the field, Flynn leaned in close and shared a quiet moment with Wilson.

Hustling out of the locker room, Flynn stopped for a moment when asked what he’d said to the rookie.

“It was mostly between us,” Flynn said. “I just told him I was proud of him, and that he deserved (his success). He did a great job.”

It was a good reflection on Flynn. He was brought in to be the man and ended up being a footnote.

Or maybe it’s more appropriate to consider him an insurance policy that was never needed.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@ thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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