When the Packers and Jermichael Finley came to an agreement on a two-year extension, the team opened itself up to several new possibilities this offseason. It had been speculated that Green Bay would ultimately be unable to sign Finley to a long-term deal, resulting in the Packers placing the franchise tag on their young tight end.
Now with the franchise tag available to be used on another player, backup QB Matt Flynn may be at the center of an interesting situation. Whether it's been Aaron Rodgers on his weekly radio show or Mike McCarthy today at the NFL Scouting Combine, the Packers have smothered Flynn with praise since their season ended in January.
It's apparent that Flynn has developed into a starting-caliber quarterback in the league, and there are a handful of teams across the league that could benefit from acquiring him to be their starter. Much like veteran teammate Scott Wells, Flynn is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on March 13th if he doesn't receive either a new contract or the franchise tag.
Assuming the Packers put their franchise tag to waste and allow Flynn to hit free agency, the team will likely receive a draft choice in either the third or fourth round next year depending on how the quarterback performs in 2012 with his new team.
However, there has been talk that the Packers may indeed place the franchise tag on Flynn and attempt to trade him in hopes of receiving an immediate impact right away in 2012.
Looking at several recent trades involving backup quarterbacks, it seems reasonable to think the Packers could acquire a high second-round pick for Flynn. In 2009, New England traded QB Matt Cassell and veteran LB Mike Vrabel to the Chiefs for the 34th overall pick. Just last year, the Philadelphia Eagles traded their former backup QB, Kevin Kolb, to Arizona for a 2012 second-round pick and CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Although a second-round pick seems like adequate value for Flynn, that's not the only option Green Bay may have. In 2001 the Packers found themselves in a somewhat similar situation, with a talented backup QB, Matt Hasselbeck, and an obvious need for a pass rusher. Packers GM Ted Thompson worked for the team as a scout through the 1999 season, but worked in Seattle's front office in 2001 when the Hasselbeck trade went down.
Green Bay traded Hasselbeck, along with its first-round pick (17th overall), to Seattle for its first-round pick (10th overall) and third-round pick (72nd overall). The Packers selected Florida State DE Jamal Reynolds at No. 10 and Oklahoma LB Torrance Marshall at No. 72; the Seahawks got their starting QB in Hasselbeck and used the 17th pick on perennial Pro-Bowl OG Steve Hutchinson.
Certainly the Packers would hope for more production than they got from Reynolds in his whopping 18 career NFL games, but the possibility of tagging Flynn in an attempt to move up in the first round is intriguing to say the least.
Green Bay overhauled its defense in 2009, switching to a 3-4 alignment under new defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Following a 6-10 season and armed with the ninth pick in the draft, GM Ted Thompson was faced with the task of filling to large holes in their new defensive scheme.
Thompson used the ninth pick to select the man in the middle of his new defense, B.J. Raji. Keeping a close eye on the draft board, Thompson saw an opportunity to get back into the first round and select the other most important position of the 3-4 defense, a pass rusher found in the form of Clay Matthews.
Following an electric 15-1 regular season in Green Bay, the Packers endured an abrupt ending to their dream season in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. If there was a constant deficiency throughout 2011 for the Packers, it was a lack of pass rush.
Thompson is strapped with the 28th pick in Round 1, but this year's crop of pass rushers appears somewhat top-heavy. Alabama's Courtney Upshaw and South Carolina's Melvin Ingram both figure to hear their name called in the top half of the first round—far before the Packers are currently slated to make their first selection.
If Thompson chooses to use the franchise tag on Flynn and goes the "Hasselbeck route" by using his backup QB to move up in the first round, Green Bay will likely be in position to select one of the draft's top pass rushers.
Though the list of Flynn's potential suitors features probably three to six teams, the most likely fit is with former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and the Miami Dolphins.
On Friday morning, Miami won a coin flip with Carolina to win the eigth overall pick. According to the draft trade value chart, the eighth pick is worth 1400 points and the 28th pick is worth 660 points. Assuming the Packers and Dolphins swapped first-round picks, Matt Flynn would need to carry a "740-point value" in the eyes of Miami for the trade to appear even according to the chart.
A value of 740 points is equivalent to the 24th overall selection in the draft. Whether or not a team would be willing to trade its first-round draft pick for Flynn, 24th or even later, remains to be seen. However, no matter what the aforementioned chart may say, it would make some sense for Miami to go through with the trade.
If you're Miami and you truly want to acquire Flynn, you face a couple questions: Would you be better off keeping your first- and second-round picks, and still facing a question mark at QB, or would you rather execute the suggested trade with the Packers, in which you'd address your need at QB, keep your second-round pick and still have a selection in the first round, albeit 20 picks later?
Assuming Flynn gives Miami a level of stability that the Dolphins haven't seen from their recent quarterbacks, the price of moving down just 20 spots in the Round 1 seems like a bargain in exchange for a starting QB.
It would make sense for the Packers, because they'd be moving up 20 spots in the draft, to choose their preference between the top 3-4 OLB prospects: Upshaw or Ingram. By hand-picking Flynn's next team instead of letting him hit free agency and not receive any compensation until next year at this time, Green Bay could improve its defense immediately.
As a result, the evolution of the franchise tag could allow the Packers to pick in the top half of the first round following a 15-1 season—quite the reward for Thompson finding a gem by way of Matt Flynn in the seventh round of 2008.
Obviously this is all purely speculation, but using Flynn to move up in the first round seems like it could be a legitimate possibility for the Packers. Also facing questions at the QB position are Cleveland, Seattle, Washington, Denver and the New York Jets, all who pick ahead of Green Bay at 28. Although keeping Flynn in a similar system like that of new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin seems like a great fit, the possible destinations for Flynn stretch further than just Miami.
Nobody really knows what to expect from Thompson, but loaded with a talented asset in Flynn, Green Bay is certainly in an interesting situation with some very exciting possibilities.