The Green Bay Packers are sitting on a golden commodity: the right arm of backup quarterback Matt Flynn. But what they do with him may very well determine not only their own future, but the future of organizations such as the Washington Redskins or Cleveland Browns.
What am I talking about?
Flynn—coming off of a win against the Detroit Lions that saw him go 31-of-44 for 480 yards and six touchdowns—is set to become a free agent this year, and more than one organization would be licking their chops at the chance to sign him, especially considering that one less highly-touted quarterback is hitting the 2012 NFL Draft after prospect Matt Barkley decided to return to USC.
But Green Bay would have to sign Flynn to trade him, and that's where things get tricky. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel did an excellent job of breaking down the Packers' options, which I'll paraphrase here:
If the Packers decide to apply the franchise tag to Flynn, any team that wanted to sign the quarterback would have to give the team two first-round draft picks. Slapping the franchise tag on Flynn won't be cheap, however—last year, the quarterback tag was worth $14 million and will be similar or higher this season.
Technically speaking, the Packers aren't allowed to apply the franchise tag with the clear intent to then turn around and trade him, since trading franchised players is prohibited. According to Silverstein, however, the NFL tends to look the other way in such instances.
So the Packers would look to negotiate a trade with another team, sign Flynn to that contract, work out the deal so that they aren't on the hook for a cap hit and turn around and deal the quarterback.
The risk is if they sign him to the franchise tag and can't work out a deal with another team. As Silverstein points out, that would both crush their salary cap and prevent them from applying the tag to a player they would likely otherwise use it for, tight end Jermichael Finley.
With teams like the Browns and Redskins interested, it's a possibility that the Packers could pull the trade off. Then again, as Steve Doerschuk of Cantonrep.com writes, the Browns may have other quarterback plans, from sticking to Colt McCoy to trading the farm for the right to draft Andrew Luck. Or maybe they'll stay put and wait for their franchise quarterback to fall to them:
An interesting twist in the Flynn story: The Browns also are weighing the option of spending a No. 4 overall draft pick on Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
If the Packers are able to trade Flynn, it will be a stroke of genius from general manager Ted Thompson. If the rest of the league is smart, they'll refuse to negotiate with the Packers and throw a ton of money at Flynn to ensure they land him when he hits the free-agent market.
Then again, who ever knows what Daniel Snyder will do?
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