The first reaction by Green Bay Packer fans to the Matt Flynn news Monday was mostly down. How could the former BCS National Championship MVP—the young, promising backup quarterback—leave Green Bay with compensation going back to the Packers? How could they just let him walk?
The decision wasn't that simple. Flynn started to sparkle in the eyes of other NFL teams during last season when he replaced Aaron Rodgers due to injury. Almost from the start he seemed like the next Kevin Kolb, Matt Cassel or Matt Schaub—the next backup to get a starting role. Over the offseason and throughout this season all we heard from the Packers organization was that he would probably shift over to a new team when his contract ran out in 2012. Rodgers always approved Flynn being a starter for another team.
It seemed like everything was leading to Flynn getting a contract in 2012 and choosing where he would play for the next four, five, six years. Once he scored six touchdowns in the Lions game to end the regular season on New Year's Day, his fate was sealed.
Then the script changed a bit. Rumors started to flow around that he would be tagged and traded to another team like Seattle or Cleveland that ran West Coast systems and could use a breath of fresh air at the position. As soon as the rumors seemed to have cooled down. his offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin, took the head job at Miami. Rumors sparked again saying that they were a pair and both would meet up again as Dolphins.
Only one thing stood in the way. A tight end by the name of Jermichael Finley. Finley was also on a contract year, but unlike Flynn the Packers intended to keep him—at least for a while. Speculation about the franchise tag being used on Finley, then Finley's camp stated they would try for a wide receiver tag rather than a tight end tag.
At the end of the day, Finley signed a short-term deal that gave him between the tight end and receiver tag price, something that worked for everybody. He has to prove he can produce over the next two years to have a secure career and the Packer's aren't tied to much money.
One of the best things about the deal was that the franchise tag wasn't used, so Flynn could still be moved.
Starting that day, almost every mock draft I read on any site (not just Packers) had Flynn being tagged and traded to somebody for an early second-day value. No doubt GM Ted Thompson was trying to move him for something like those deals suggested, but nothing seemed to stand out for him to take the almost $15 million risk that would have been on the salary cap with that tag.
Most fans at this point think that Flynn walking away from Green Bay is a disappointment, when honestly it's a reflection of how far he and the franchise have come. While in Green Bay he had 1,015 yards passing and nine touchdowns, including two starts. How many Packer fans remember the feeling after the Detroit game last year?
Rodgers gets hurt, the offense doesn't look like it can move the ball, and half of the fanbase was on the verge of throwing in the towel. Flynn stepped up in the New England game and sparked the fanbase, and probably the team, while still losing on the scoreboard. How many players can do that?
His other start? A win over a division opponent's starting team while leading the Packers "scrubs" in a victory to end a 15-1 regular season. Not too bad, Mr. Flynn.
Doing a quick overlook of the other seventh-round quarterbacks since Flynn (including his class) is pretty amazing. Twenty four. Not 24 starts, not 24 touchdowns, but 24 yards. Yup, that's how many all of the other seventh-round quarterbacks have together. No touchdowns and one interception. Really puts Flynn's 1,015-yard, nine-touchdown stat line in prospective, right?
He did more for Green Bay than any other seventh-round pick could have done during this time.
Not only that, but Green Bay can still get something back for him. The NFL draft has "compensation picks," which are given to teams that have more free agent money leave then they take in.
Here's an example: Flynn signs for $50 million in Miami and Green Bay only signs $2 million in veteran free agents. What that means is Green Bay had $48 million of free-agent money leave Green Bay. The more money that leaves, the higher the compensation pick is.
Last time I checked, quarterback is a pretty costly position and Ted Thompson doesn't reach into his pocket much for free agents. The Packers could get up to a third-round pick in 2013 if Flynn signs the type of deal he is projected to.
The Packers didn't let a key piece walk out the door—they outscouted, drafted and coached the rest of the NFL and made not only one good quarterback, but two. One had to leave due to money, but that's life. Matt Flynn has done more for the Packers franchise that anyone outside of Green Bay could have projected, and for that no one should be mad Green Bay can only get a compensation pick back for him.
Good luck where ever you go, Matt.