Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider executed the most pivotal move of the duo’s tenure in Seattle, committing to a potential franchise quarterback by agreeing to terms with Green Bay free agent reserve quarterback Matt Flynn on Sunday.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is thought to be a three-year deal with a maximum value of $26 million, $10 million of which is guaranteed.
Even though the Seahawks locked up what many considered the No. 2 quarterback in the free agent market behind Peyton Manning, Carroll said Seattle’s starting quarterback job in 2012 will be up for grabs, with Flynn battling incumbent Tarvaris Jackson.
“We are really excited to bring Matt in here to compete with Tarvaris,” Carroll said about his team’s newest addition.
However, the team’s level of financial commitment suggests otherwise. Flynn is expected to be Seattle’s starting quarterback when the Seahawks open regular-season play in September.
Jackson is in the final year of a two-year deal that pays him $4 million in base salary in 2012.
The move marks the third quarterback the Seahawks have picked up in free agency since Carroll arrived, a list that includes Flynn, Jackson and the departed Charlie Whitehurst.
More important, the Seahawks have significantly upgraded the talent level at the position, with Flynn and Jackson both capable starters, and second-year pro Josh Portis a talented developmental product with upside.
Flynn visited with Seattle on Friday before making a trip to Miami over the weekend. The Seahawks also had a visit scheduled with free agent quarterback Alex Smith from San Francisco, but ultimately made the offer to Flynn on Sunday, and he accepted.
In somewhat of a surprise, Flynn picked Seattle over Miami, where Joe Philbin, his former offensive coordinator in Green Bay, is now the head coach.
The Seahawks are betting on Flynn having similar success to another Matt the team secured from Green Bay a decade ago – Matt Hasselbeck. Former Seattle coach Mike Holmgren picked up Hasselbeck in a trade with the Packers in 2001, and the Boston College product eventually led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl appearance, earning three Pro Bowl invitations and finishing as the franchise’s all-time leader in wins.
Familiarity also played a role in this move. Schneider was with Green Bay’s personnel office when the Packers selected Flynn in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. Flynn served as the backup to Aaron Rodgers, but played impressively in two starts for Green Bay, one in the 2010 regular season, the other in the 2011 season.
“It’s a definite advantage,” Schneider said at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, when asked how important player familiarity is in free agency. “It’s so much easier than going after a guy that say is on waivers from another club that you’ve never spent any time with, and you’re going to cut a player to put him on our team. You’re kind of like, ‘Man, what are we getting ourselves into?’ And you have to do your research and hope that you can trust the people you’re talking to, and trust what you’re seeing on film.”
Flynn, 26, has completed 82 of 132 passes (62.1 percent) for 1,015 yards, nine touchdowns and five interceptions in his four-year NFL career. He’s been sacked 13 times and has a 92.8 passer rating.
At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, Flynn does not possess a rocket arm or elite athleticism. But he makes split-second decisions, has a quick release and has good pocket awareness – all essential skills for Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s version of the West Coast offense.
The Seahawks avoided making the huge commitment that Arizona did with quarterback Kevin Kolb last year – Kolb has already been paid $18 million of his six-year, $65 million deal with the Cardinals.
However, Flynn’s $26 million contract indicates that Seattle thinks he’s a better option than Jackson right now for a team that Carroll thinks is on the cusp of becoming a regular playoff contender, with a chance at winning Super Bowls sooner rather than later.
In his first season in Seattle, Jackson went 7-7 as a starter, after playing most of the season with a torn pectoral muscle in his throwing shoulder. Even with five projected starters on the season-ending injured reserve, he finish with a solid 85.3 passer rating in the final eight games of the season.
However, Jackson struggled in late-game situations, finishing 0-4 in opportunities to win on the final drive.
Jackson understood going into his second season with the Seahawks that he would have competition for the job. And he’s been through difficult situations before, including being replaced as the starter by Brett Favre in Minnesota.
“If I get the opportunity I’m fine,” Jackson said, when asked about the possibility of competing for his spot at the end of the 2011 season. “But if not, I’m always going to be a professional about the situation. I’ll be the best teammate I can be. I’ve been through difficult situations close to that, so I know how to handle the situation. It won’t be a problem.”
Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said via twitter that he’ll be giving up his No. 15 jersey for No. 89 because his new teammate wore No. 15 at LSU.
Flynn of course did not wear No 15 for Green Bay because someone named Bart Starr had that number retired.
Baldwin will switch to his college number at Stanford – No. 89 – now that tight end John Carlson has moved on to Minnesota.
“Just got off the phone with Matt Flynn. And he’s ready to WIN!” Baldwin posted on his twitter feed.
Seahawks free agent linebacker David Hawthorne is scheduled to visit the Detroit Lions on Tuesday. Hawthorne already visited New Orleans on Friday, along with Atlanta Falcons free agent linebacker Curtis Lofton and Denver free agent middle linebacker Joel Mays, who re-signed with the Broncos on Sunday. The Saints remain interested in Hawthorne. The Lions are working to complete a deal with starting middle linebacker Steve Tulloch, but Hawthorne could be insurance if that deal falls through. The TCU product led the Seahawks in tackles the past three seasons, but Seattle has showed little interest in bringing Hawthorne back to Seattle.