Update: It’s official now, with the Raiders giving up a fifth-round pick in the 2014 draft, and a conditional pick in 2015.
Matt Flynn is likely, probably, almost definitely about to get a real chance to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. It’s just too bad that he’ll have to do it in Oakland.
Continuing a series of quarterback transactions over the past few days that — while quite notable — have been entirely expected, the Raiders and Seahawks are reportedly about to complete a trade which will send Flynn to Oakland in exchange for multiple picks, according to Jay Glazer. The exact value of the picks still isn’t known yet, but Glazer reports they’ll be spread over the next two drafts in 2014 and 2015, and they’ll come in the later rounds. If that is indeed the final compensation, then this could become a shrewd rebuilding move by Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. He’s buying low on Flynn’s potential and paying little, while therefore risking little.
However, while the risk may be limited in a vacuum here with Flynn maybe panning out after being acquired for likely throwaway, late-round picks, there’s still overall fear for McKenzie. This is a franchise that has notoriously treated draft picks like, I dunno, delicious potato chips. They were devoured immediately due to their deliciousness, and then the Raiders during the Al Davis era were left with no options to replace their ballooned self with youth as other teams sailed by. Just last spring Oakland entered the draft with only two of their own picks (excluding compensatory picks) due to multiple costly trades that were eventually massive missteps, and a pick forfeited in the third round when they took Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft.
Pryor will now be Flynn’s backup, meaning another high pick has been carelessly tossed aside. If Flynn doesn’t fulfill the potential that’s been discussed with varying degrees of vigor and excitement during his tenure in Green Bay and to a lesser extent Seattle, two more picks will also be treated with the same indifference.
While McKenzie will quite rightfully be torn to shreds and possibly lose his job if that happens, there are times when risk is justified, and this is one of those times. McKenzie’s hands continue to be tied by the mistakes of the previous regime, as part of Palmer’s anchor is a second-round pick in this year’s draft. That means after the Raiders are on the clock with their third overall pick, they’ll wait 58 more picks before making their next selection.
This is a weak quarterback draft class, and McKenzie presumably either wasn’t confident in Geno Smith’s value at third overall, or he wasn’t confident that Smith would even be available (hi, Jacksonville). Trading back could be difficult in this draft since there’s likely to be little separation beyond the top 10, and other possible immediate starters like Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, and E.J. Manuel will be gone by the third round.
So even though sacrificing more picks is something a general manager of the Oakland Raiders probably shouldn’t do ever, you’re now beginning to see why McKenzie was currently located between a rock, and another rock. His choices were to either hope that Smith didn’t flop (not a preferred option), or pay a much lesser price in terms of draft picks and their value for Flynn. He’s now relying on Flynn to exchange his brief success and vast time on the sideline learning for some sustained brilliance, or at the very least, he can be a far sturdier bridge to a future QB in next year’s draft than Palmer.
For the Seahawks, getting anything for Flynn was just a nice extra piece of awesome. They clearly have their quarterback of the future in Russell Wilson, and they’ll now go about the business of seeking a competent backup who can run a bit of the read-option (no easy task, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked…Colt McCoy and Tyler Thigpen are strong early possibilities). But the true motivation was to free up cap space. With Flynn’s $5.25 million gone, the Seahawks now have roughly $10 million in cap room, which provides enough dollars to work through a few extensions while securing key pieces long term.
That appropriately summarizes what we’re seeing here, and the two extremes of the franchises involved in this trade. One general manager (McKenzie) is still attempting to clean up a toxic mess — and he may have added to it — while the other (John Schneider) moved an expendable asset so he can in turn keep far more valuable assets.
Also, the Seahawks will win games, and the Raiders won’t.