NFL Free Agency: Quarterback Picture Starting to Clear Up a Bit

Vincent FrankCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2012

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 01:  Matt Flynn #10 of the Green Bay Packerslooks for a receiver as Ndamukong Suh #90 of the Detroit Lions rushes at Lambeau Field on January 1, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 45-41.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks signed Matt Flynn on Sunday, which really shouldn't come as much of a surprise to us.

That deal does clear up the quarterback picture a great deal at this point, but there is still a lot left to do. Other reports indicated the Miami Dolphins met with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith on Sunday and were in contract negotiations with the former No. 1 pick.

Where does this leave the 49ers in pursuit of Peyton Manning? What trickle-down effect will it have for the tree teams currently in the Manning sweepstakes?

These are two questions that should be answered in relatively short order this week. With that said, I intend on deciphering exactly what it means in this article.


The Alex Smith factor

If the improving quarterback does sign with the Dolphins there will be a huge void left at the quarterback position for the 49ers. There is no way Colin Kaepernick should be considered ready to start for a team with championship aspirations. In fact, it would be a dramatic step back for the 49ers franchise moving into the 2012 season.

Then again, he could just be using Miami as leverage to get a larger contract from the 49ers. He met with the Dolphins brass for more than five hours on Sunday and they are reportedly in the negotiation stage. Various reports indicate the starting point is $24 million over three seasons, the same exact amount San Francisco is said to have offered Smith.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22:  Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field after the 49ers lost the NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The Giants beat
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Would adding Smith change the landscape of the AFC East for the Dolphins? Not too sure it would. However, it could be concluded that they ultimately accomplished the goal of upgrading at the quarterback position. In short, Alex Smith over Matt Moore any day of the week.

This could leave the 49ers in a precarious position if they are unable to pull in Manning. They would be left with Kaepernick and another second-year player, Scott Tolzien, on the roster. Obviously that isn't the ideal scenario by any stretch of the imagination.

Pure conjecture here, but Smith's visit with the Dolphins could have much larger implications than what is being reported. Maybe he has been told by the 49ers to look for another job because Manning is going to choose them early this week. You have to believe that if all things were equal (contract length and money) Smith would choose the 49ers over any team in the National Football League. So, this could be an indication that San Francisco is fully prepared to move on with Manning and has given Smith the go-ahead to find another starting job somewhere. 


The Peyton Manning factor

What happens to the Dolphins if Manning signs with the Tennessee Titans and Alex Smith returns to the 49ers? This would leave them desperate to not only find an upgrade on the free-agent market, but look for a long term answer in the NFL draft.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 07:  Peyton Manning attends a press conference announcing Manning's release from the Colts at Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on March 7, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joey Foley/Getty Images)
Joey Foley/Getty Images

In reality, Jeff Ireland's job probably depends on the outcome of their quarterback chase. If the Dolphins are forced to go into 2012 with either Matt Moore or another marginal quarterback at the helm, the offseason would be considered a major failure.

Both San Francisco and Denver have fall-back options at quarterback. The same cannot be said for Miami, which is looking somewhat desperate at this point.

In the end I believe Manning ultimately chooses to go to the 49ers because they offer him the best chance at winning the Super Bowl.


The Tennessee Titans factor

If Manning ends up choosing Bud Adams and the Titans there will be another solid veteran quarterback on the market. It is pretty obvious Manning and Matt Hasselbeck wouldn't be able to coexist on the same time. This means the latter would hit the open market. The 49ers would then become the favorites to land the veteran quarterback. His wife is a San Francisco native and they reached out to him last offseason.

The Titans are not as desperate as a team like the Broncos when it comes to landing Manning. They have two capable quarterbacks on the roster who could be relied on to win games.


Matt Flynn lands in the Pacific Northwest

The Seattle Seahawks almost threw an incredible monkey wrench into the whole quarterback situation as it relates to free agency. It was being reported they were planning to meet with Smith early Sunday morning, which would have taken the situation to entirely new levels. Instead, Seattle came to terms with Flynn a couple hours after that initial report.

While this is a good signing, it isn't enough of an upgrade to label Seattle as contenders in the NFC West. Instead, it appears Flynn was brought in to challenge Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job.

This signing also means there is one less to team for Alex Smith to look at and further waters down the market for the veteran quarterback. He is in a precarious position, to say the least.



Did you get all that? Well, if your head is spinning, just image what I went through in an attempt to put all these thoughts on paper (or the Internet).

We will obviously come to a conclusion in regards to Manning, Smith, the Broncos, the Titans, the Dolphins and the 49ers in the near future—well, maybe a couple of those factors. Either way, this has been a wild ride for fans of these four teams and those who are paid to cover them.