In separate interviews after the Super Bowl, both general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy dismissed the idea of trading backup quarterback Matt Flynn. They were being honest then, but that doesn’t mean the former LSU star is a lock to be on the roster when the regular season opens (hopefully) in early September. In my opinion, Flynn’s immediate future in Green Bay will be determined in large part by what happens in the upcoming draft. If Thompson selects a quarterback in the first four or five rounds, the odds are pretty good that he’ll at least explore the possibility of making a deal.
Of course, Thompson won’t just give Flynn away. Considering the Packers would likely receive at least a fourth-round pick should the 25-year-old leave as an unrestricted free agent following the 2011 season, it’s going to take significantly higher compensation than that to pry away one of the league’s most promising young backups. Would any team be willing to give up a second-round pick for a player who has attempted only 83 passes (completing 49) in three seasons? That’s obviously impossible for me to know, but my educated guess is yes. And there are a number of reasons to support this opinion.
First, at least a dozen teams are currently in need of a quarterback. And after Auburn’s Cam Newton, Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert and maybe Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett, which rookie quarterback would you prefer over Flynn? Florida State’s Christian Ponder? TCU’s Andy Dalton? Washington’s Jake Locker? Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi? Personally, I’d take Flynn over all four of those players in a heartbeat. He may not have a lot of experience, but his superb performance on national television against Bill Belichick and Patriots late last season left a lasting impression on me and had to have done the same thing to every GM in the league.
Also, Flynn has been tutored for three years by two of the very best quarterback coaches in the league. That was a big plus even before the Packers won the Super Bowl behind a young quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) groomed by McCarthy and Tom Clements. Now it’s an enormous plus. Other GMs view those two men much the way other GMs looked at Mike Holmgren and Steve Mariucci some 15 years ago. And remember, Ron Wolf was able to use that admiration to flip both Mark Brunell and Aaron Brooks for a tidy little profit.
And finally, any team that doesn’t procure a potential starting quarterback in the draft will be hard-pressed to find one in free agency or via trade. The best quarterback on the market figures to be Kevin Kolb, but he’s going to be very expensive. The Eagles are asking for first and third-round picks and agent Jeff Nalley will be looking for a huge contract. After Kolb, the pickings are awfully slim. Vince Young and Donovan McNabb figure to be available, but would any GM want to stake his future to either of those players?
That’s why I believe at least one team is going to be willing to offer Green Bay a second-round choice for Flynn after the lockout ends. Tennessee makes the most sense. In fact, if the Titans don’t draft a quarterback early, you might start to wonder if the two teams hadn’t already agreed to the parameters of a deal. It’s also important to remember that Tennessee GM Mike Reinfeldt is one of Thompson’s best friends and that the two teams have played in each of the past three preseasons. So Reinfeldt should know Flynn very well.
Why would Thompson be willing to trade away one of the best insurance policies in the entire league? Well, first of all, he’d only consider it if he has a capable replacement on the roster (forget about current No. 3 Graham Harrell). That’s why what happens in the draft is so important. Both Thompson and McCarthy have shown a willingness to go into a season with a rookie backup quarterback. Rodgers was No. 2 behind Brett Favre in ’05 and Flynn held that same role behind Rodgers three years later. The key is finding the right rookie.
Here’s another reason – Thompson watched Wolf trade away young quarterbacks year after year in the 90s. That was the philosophy of the man who taught him everything he knows about building a football team. People often talk about how different the two men are, but in reality, they are very much the same. They both hired offensive-minded head coaches, they both acquired a quarterback of the future within four months of being hired and they both signed a future Hall of Fame defensive player after their first full season on the job.
Would it be risky to trade Flynn? Yes, but it would be no riskier than the Eagles trading Kolb. And while people love to label Thompson as cautious, that’s simply not true. Would a cautious man have hired McCarthy and dumped Favre? Truth is, Thompson might have the biggest pair of cojones of any GM in the league. Trading a backup quarterback is child’s play when compared to hiring a coach nobody ever heard of and discarding a future Hall of Famer coming off his best season. So a trade could definitely happen. And if it doesn’t, then Flynn will be back – not such a bad thing for a team looking to defend its title.
(The draft contest ends at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Hit the link at the top of the page for details.)