The Oakland Raiders have a very unstable quarterback situation going into the 2013 season and moved a step closer to stabilizing it on Friday. The expectation is that the Raiders will complete a trade with the Seattle Seahawks for quarterback Matt Flynn according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
Once a deal is completed, Carson Palmer will likely be released or traded (according to a tweet by La Canfora). Palmer was going to be the starter if he remained with the team, but his $13 million salary is simply too much for the cash-strapped Raiders. Without some sort of pay cut for Palmer, the Raiders were forced to look at other options.
Flynn will bring stability to the quarterback position, buy Reggie McKenzie time to find a franchise quarterback and allow the Raiders to pass on a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick. Although Flynn himself will not excite fans, he’s better than people think and McKenzie knows him well from their time together in Green Bay.
Despite what some fans wanted to believe, the Raiders were never going to enter 2013 without at least giving Terrelle Pryor serious competition for the starting job. With Flynn in the fold, the Raiders have their quarterback of the immediate future. A trade for Flynn also gives the Raiders time to develop Pryor if they determine he’s worth the effort.
According to Albert Breer of NFL.com, "the Seahawks have done their part," and it’s up to the Raiders and Flynn to make it happen.
One challenge is that the Raiders may be trying to re-work Flynn’s contract, but he’s not receptive, also according to Breer. It’s also unclear if the Raiders have already made a final run at getting Palmer to take a pay cut, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, or if that window has passed.
If the deal is finalized, it would probably rule out the selection of a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick. Trading for Flynn would allow the Raiders to pick the best player available to help a talent-depleted roster—especially on defense.
Although not facing any deadlines to make a move with Palmer, the Raiders probably didn’t want to go into the draft without having the quarterback situation settled. Going into the draft without a pay cut for Palmer or an alternative to Pryor would have put pressure on the organization to draft a quarterback in the first round.
John Clayton of ESPN called the deal for Flynn “inevitable.” If Palmer and Flynn stand their ground, the Raiders have also shown interest in Kevin Kolb, according to Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio.
Flynn’s biggest knocks are his arm strength and a lack of experience at the NFL level. In his five-year career, which has included two starts, Flynn has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,083 yards with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. Flynn also has one rushing touchdown.
Flynn was the backup to JaMarcus Russell at LSU until he was a fifth-year senior, but he led the Tigers to the national championship before being drafted by the Packers and beating out Brian Brohm to back up Aaron Rodgers. Brohm was taken in the second round the year prior to Flynn’s arrival, so it’s not like he beat out a total scrub.
Raiders’ fans should know that arm strength isn’t everything. The Raiders have a long history with strong-armed quarterbacks in Jeff George, Kerry Collins, Russell and Palmer and not a lot of success to show for it. The most success the Raiders have had since the 1980s has been with Rich Gannon, who didn’t have the biggest arm.
Flynn’s Deep Ball
Flynn might not have a huge arm, but he’s demonstrated the ability to deliver an accurate deep ball in his two career starts. More impressive than his six-touchdown performance at the tail end of the 2011 season against the Lions was his Week 15 start against the Patriots in New England.
Flynn showed off his deep ball in that game on a 66-yard touchdown pass, but he didn’t routinely take the deep shots. Flynn is content to churn out yards by throwing into cracks on defense. What is noticeable of about Flynn’s deep passes is that he gets good protection. Take note that Flynn’s standing on his own 27-yard line.
The pass is perfectly dropped over the defender and is caught at around the Patriots’ 44-yard line, with the safety arriving late because Flynn looked him off. The ball travels well over 30 yards in the air when you consider Flynn was throwing the ball across the hash marks to near the sidelines.
There’s no doubt, the Patriots' bad defense turned this 30-yard pass into a 66-yard touchdown, but it wasn’t an instance of blown coverage.
In Flynn’s Week 17 start against the Lions, he threw another deep ball that travelled over 40 yards in the air on a free-play touchdown to Jordy Nelson. Even though Flynn had nothing to lose, he put the ball in a spot that gave Nelson a chance.
It would appear that Flynn’s lack of arm strength is significantly overblown because his arm was considered his weakness coming out of college and because he’s been content throwing short passes in his two-career starts and racking up good yardage.
Flynn threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown against the Patriots, which could have been the difference in the game as the Patriots ended up winning by four points. As it turns out, that interception wasn’t the result of arm-strength limitation or even a poor decision.
Flynn took a short drop and was immediately pressured from his blind side. Flynn sensed the pressure and tried to get the ball to his hot read.
Unfortunately, the safety buzzed the flat route and cut off his receiver's route which allowed the cornerback to step in front of the ball and take the interception back for a score. Flynn had one-on-one coverage on the outside, and his receiver was running a slant, which ideally is a short completion or an incomplete pass in this case.
Comparison to Pryor
Pryor has one career start, which is also a small sample size. While Flynn was able to do a lot with his starts, Pryor was inconsistent as a passer in his start and relied mostly on his legs to make plays. Although Pryor has a very strong arm, he was not nearly as accurate as Flynn.
Pryor gets excellent protection just like Flynn did on one of his only deep attempts against the Chargers. Denarius Moore also gets a full step on the defender, which means Pryor’s margin of error is significantly larger than both of Flynn’s opportunities.
Pryor overthrows Moore on what could have been a touchdown if delivered accurately. While Pryor and a lot of quarterbacks probably have more arm strength than Flynn, that ultimately doesn’t matter on a deep pass if you can’t get the ball there accurately.
Trading for Flynn and ditching Palmer gives the Raiders long-term cap relief, flexibility in the draft, and at worst, immediate competition for Pryor. Flynn's arm does not appear to be as severe a concern as it has been made out to be—at least not in a limited sample size.