By Brady Henderson
A few thoughts from a Seahawks perspective on the trade that will send quarterback Alex Smith from the 49ers to the Chiefs:
Setting the market for Flynn? The deal won’t become official until March 12, so it’s not known exactly what the Chiefs are giving up in draft compensation. Reports say it’s Kansas City’s second-round pick this year (No. 34 overall) and a conditional mid-round pick in 2014. ESPN’s John Clayton, a guest on “Brock and Salk” Wednesday morning, wondered whether San Francisco is sending a pick to Kansas City as part of the deal, possibly the 49ers’ second-rounder this year.
Whatever the 49ers end up receiving in draft compensation, it won’t necessarily carry the same value as what the Seahawks get in return should they trade their backup quarterback, Matt Flynn. Smith, by most accounts, is the better quarterback and therefore the more desirable option among teams looking for help at the position. For all his faults, Smith’s recent track record of success – a 19-5-1 record as a starter over the last two seasons – works in his favor. Smith has shown he can be an above average starter in the right situation.
Matt Cassel, who is expected to be cut by the Chiefs, could be an option for Seattle if Matt Flynn is traded. (AP)
Flynn, on the other hand, is still an unknown quantity. He’s made two career starts and played only in mop-up duty last season.
Potential trade partners. A handful of teams could still be looking for an upgrade at quarterback even though this deal eliminates the Chiefs as a potential trade partner for the Seahawks. The Jaguars and Jets were and still are considered strong possibilities based on the connections each team has with Flynn. Gus Bradley, Jacksonville’s new head coach, knows Flynn from Bradley’s time as the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator. New Jets general manager John Idzik was working in the Seahawks’ front office when they signed Flynn last offseason.
Clayton mentioned the Cardinals and Browns as possibilities as well. It’s hard to imagine the Seahawks arming a division rival like Arizona with a quarterback. Bruce Arians, the Cardinals’ new head coach, has worked with bigger, stronger-armed quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck in the past. Would he prefer a quarterback with a similar profile? Flynn doesn’t fit the mold.
Matt Cassel. The Chiefs are expected to release Matt Cassel now that they’ve acquired Smith. He was a turnover machine the last two seasons, but his starting experience and his 2010 Pro Bowl season should create a decent market for his services.
Could he be an option for the Seahawks should they trade Flynn? Possibly, but we shouldn’t overstate Cassel’s connections with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who coached Cassel at USC. It’s been almost a decade since the two worked together, and Cassel was a backup his entire career at USC. Whatever familiarity Carroll has with Cassel wouldn’t necessarily increase Cassel’s appeal. Remember Taylor Mays and the 2010 draft? Carroll famously passed on the All-American safety he had coached at USC in favor of Earl Thomas. That’s just one of several examples.
The draft class. The Chiefs hold the top pick in the draft. Their decision to trade for Smith is a strong indication that they share the opinion of most draft analysts who believe this year’s crop of quarterback prospects is relatively unimpressive.
Trading Flynn would force the Seahawks to find a replacement in the draft or free agency, so the strength of this year’s quarterback class would likely factor into their thinking. But that group is considered weak because of the absence of top-end talent. With Russell Wilson entrenched as the starter, that’s not what the Seahawks would be looking for. Even if the class is as weak as advertised, that doesn’t necessarily mean the Seahawks couldn’t find a viable option after the first two rounds.