Carson Palmer was getting paid too much in 2013, Terrelle Pryor wasn’t ready to take over as the starter and the 2013 NFL draft appears to lack a great option at the quarterback position. The Oakland Raiders had no choice but to make a move if they couldn’t get Palmer to take a pay cut.
It took a weekend of talks, but the trade between the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks that sends quarterback Matt Flynn to Oakland will be finalized once the paperwork is signed today according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports. The Raiders announced the trade was for a 2014 fifth-round draft choice and a conditional pick in 2015.
Flynn’s addition will have an extensive impact on the Raiders present and future. The team’s draft plans, their cap space, Pryor’s development and even the future of the leadership in Oakland could all be significantly altered based on the trade. The importance of the quarterback position can’t be understated.
With the Flynn trade being finalized, the Raiders are also working on a deal that would send Palmer to the Cardinals according to Glazer, presumably for a late-round draft pick. Palmer reportedly refused to take a pay cut to $10 million with the Raiders, but will end up making $8 million with the Cardinals according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
Flynn has also agreed to re-work his contract according to a tweet by La Canfora, which will give the Raiders additional cap space. The Raiders will take a significant cap hit by trading Palmer, but will still save nearly $6 million according to overthecap.com figures. Flynn’s contract was already more reasonable and any adjustment will likely just be to maximize cap flexibility over the next two years.
Trading Palmer will also get his contract off the books for next season, which will give the Raiders even more resources to continue to rebuild a talent-depleted roster. The Raiders had to cut bait Palmer’s contract sooner or later and it made sense to make a move if he made clear he didn’t want to be a part of the rebuilding process.
A Quarterback Competition
With the addition of Flynn and Palmer headed out of town, the Raiders can have a true quarterback competition. It would be naive to think that Flynn wouldn’t be the odds-on favorite to get the job over Pryor, but the beauty of a competition is that things can change.
Flynn was also the favorite to land the starting job with the Seahawks in 2012, but lost the job to rookie Russell Wilson. Supporters of Pryor will hope history repeats itself, but will need Pryor to improve significantly as a passer. Flynn is completely unproven as well, with only two starts in his career.
Just because Reggie McKenzie drafted Flynn when he was an executive in Green Bay doesn’t mean that he’s overvaluing what Flynn brings to the table. McKenzie released this statement about Flynn via the team’s official website:
“Matt is a tough football player, and a talented quarterback. He will get the opportunity to compete to be a starter with the Raiders. I believe Matt has that potential, but I also know he hasn’t had enough experience. We’re going to let him compete and battle, and see what happens. We know Raider Nation wants a team that can compete for the playoffs year-in and year-out and we’re putting in the necessary work right now to make that happen. This is one of the many decisions in that process.”
What to Expect From Flynn
The Raiders aren’t delusional about Flynn’s ability, but the odds are that he’ll end up being the starter in 2013. Flynn brings to the table a lot of traits you look for in a quarterback, including toughness and leadership. There is at least a chance that Flynn turns into the long-term answer for the Raiders, whereas Palmer was only going to get older and less effective.
Several general managers and scouts told Jeff Diamond of Sports Illustrated last March that Flynn had “good to very good” arm strength, release, accuracy, athleticism and mobility in the pocket. Flynn was also described as a hard worker, smart, composed and competitive. Flynn appears to have the tools to be a success when given a chance.
Flynn’s problem has been opportunity and perhaps that he doesn’t do anything at an elite level. Since Flynn doesn’t have elite tools, he’ll likely be pretty average and reliant on his supporting cast to make big plays. That could be a problem if the Raiders don’t have explosive receivers, but Flynn could certainly be aided by a healthy Darren McFadden.
If Flynn gets the starting job, the expectation will be that he is at least as good as Palmer was in 2012. Although Palmer threw for 4,000 yards, a shocking majority his production came with the Raiders trailing by two scores.
According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, a shocking 2037 of Palmer’s yards came with the Raiders trailing by nine points or more, and 16 of his 22 touchdowns came in the same situation. Palmer has a very pedestrian 60.2 percent completion percentage with 1986 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions when the Raiders were within nine points.
The expectation for Flynn as a starter would be stats around league average. Coincidentally, Palmer’s 2012 season was near league median in just about every statistical category including completion percentage, touchdowns and interceptions.
If Flynn wins the job, expect more of the same from the quarterback position in Oakland. Palmer was neither the problem nor the solution in 2012 and the expectation is that Flynn will not be either. Flynn simply buys the Raiders time to find their solution at the position instead of drafting one out of desperation.
Impact on the Draft
If the Raiders knew they were going to draft or wanted to draft their franchise quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick, why would they trade for a quarterback at all? Pryor is capable of being a backup at least, so the trade would be unnecessary and a waste of valuable draft picks.
With so many holes on the roster, the Raiders would be better served using their top pick on one of the best defensive players in the draft. There are also top offensive tackles and skill position players widely regarded as better prospects than this year’s group of quarterbacks.
The trade for Flynn indicates that the Raiders are part of the majority that doesn’t think there is a quarterback worthy of the No. 3 pick. With the trade for Flynn, the Raiders no longer have the pressure to draft a quarterback with their top pick like Geno Smith. The Raiders could still like Smith, just not as much as other players.
Don’t rule out that the Raiders doing the same thing as the Seahawks did last year. After bringing in Flynn, the Seahawks took Wilson in the third round. Flynn doesn’t rule out drafting a quarterback, it only takes the pressure off the Raiders to draft one early. There could be a quarterback the Raiders like available with their 66th overall pick that falls because a cluster of quarterbacks go in the second round to other quarterback-needy teams.
Every big quarterback move comes with fantasy football implications and this one is no exception. Like Palmer in 2012, Palmer could rack up garbage time yards and touchdowns with the Raiders playing from behind. As a bye week starter, Flynn could be a popular choice depending on how much the Raiders improve through the draft.
In deep or two-starter leagues, Flynn could be an attractive and cheap option. Flynn could be paired with quarterbacks in the middle of the pack for matchup plays or as a viable alternative to an injured star especially if that star is one of the quarterbacks that rely more heavily on their legs.
Oakland’s offensive line is currently under construction, but Flynn will have solid blind-side protection and a good center already. Flynn would certainly be boosted if Jacoby Ford stayed healthy. The Raiders have four young receivers with speed, so pay attention to their continued to development which could give Flynn sneaky value.
The Raiders didn’t trade a lot to get Flynn, which makes the trade extremely low risk. Even if Flynn doesn’t turn into a great starter, he’ll buy the Raiders time to find their franchise quarterback. There’s also a small chance that Pryor could turn into that franchise quarterback in time.
Having Flynn will both push Pryor and give him the time he needs to develop without the pressure of starting. Ideally, a player like Pryor wouldn’t be pressed into action before he is ready. Pryor can also still be used as a gadget player to keep defenses off balance.
The Raiders are rebuilding and it makes sense to go younger, clear cap space and to draft the very best players regardless of position. Trading for Flynn was cheap and will set the Raiders up for future success while providing a younger and more motivated alternative to Palmer.
Trading for Flynn and shipping off Palmer are moves that help the Raiders in the future more than it helps them today. The Raiders could probably have sacrificed their future for another seven or eight-win season by paying Palmer, signing overpriced free agents and trading away future picks, but that is what got the mess that McKenzie is slowly trying to clean up. Breaking Down What the Matt Flynn Trade Means for Oakland Raiders