Packers let Flynn go free

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Tom Silverstein, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
— Bill Johnson, the agent for backup quarterback Matt Flynn, is grateful that Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson plays by the rules.

If he didn’t, Johnson wouldn’t be preparing for an auction for Flynn’s services come the start of free agency March 13. He would be facing the prospect of a much smaller group of suitors and a potentially less lucrative contract.

Rather than play the franchise game, Thompson chose to let Flynn go to free agency without any restrictions. He could have lined up a potential trade partner and then put the franchise restriction on Flynn, making it necessary for anyone interested in the backup to give the Packers compensation.

Johnson thinks Thompson’s sense of fair play took over. Putting the franchise tag on free agents for the sole purpose of trading them is frowned upon—although not completely forbidden—under NFL rules, and he thinks Thompson just didn’t want to go the route of circumventing the league’s anti-tampering statutes.

“A large part of that is that Green Bay absolutely does it by the book,” Johnson said. “No tampering, and I admire that.”

It’s possible that Johnson is giving Thompson too much credit. Maybe Thompson just found that nobody was so interested in Flynn that they were willing to give up a draft pick just for the right to sign him to a huge multi-year contract.

There are a lot of quarterback options out there and it could be that quarterback-hungry teams weren’t completely convinced that Flynn was worth giving up a high draft choice given he has started only two games. It probably will wind up being cheaper to sign Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III than it will be to sign Flynn.

And so it appears teams didn’t push the issue with Thompson and Thompson didn’t push the issue with them.

The result is that Flynn now has the ability to choose the best team and the best offer. If he wants to go play for Joe Philbin in Miami, he can do that. If he wants to replace Colt McCoy in Cleveland, he can do that. If he wants to help Pete Carroll take the Seattle Seahawks to the next level, he can do that.

As for the Packers, the only compensation they’ll get for Flynn is a draft choice in 2013. Assuming Flynn signs a big deal and has a successful season and Thompson doesn’t sign any restricted free agents, Thompson has a shot at getting a compensatory pick at the end of the third round.

If he signs an unrestricted free agent or two that will work against his net loss and reduce whatever compensation, if any, he receives for departed free agents. Flynn could also stumble and that could affect the Packers’ net loss. There are a lot of variables.

The bottom line is that in order to put the franchise tag on Flynn, Thompson would have had to play it with ice in his veins. The risk of taking on a $14.4 million franchise number and finding out no one was interested in trading for Flynn was too much for Thompson to take on.

It’s likely Thompson’s decision became final after the combine when it was clear to him a sign-and-trade wasn’t a slam dunk.

All along, Thompson has been weighing the value of center Scott Wells and whether to offer him a long-term contract. But negotiations were nowhere a month ago and it’s likely they haven’t gone much further to this point.

Putting the franchise tag on Wells is not an option because the cost is $9.4 million and that’s definitely more than anyone wants to pay for a center. Putting the transition tag on Wells would be one possibility, but that number might be around $7 million and all it does is give the Packers the option to match an offer.

There is still a week before free agency starts, and the real work won’t get going until this weekend when the deadline approaches.

For Matt Flynn, the party begins March 13.

Last updated: 8:00 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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