There's been a buzz about Packers QB Matt Flynn since Sunday, when he outdueled Matthew Stafford and the Lions, leading Green Bay to its 15th victory of the season.
Flynn, making his first start of the season in place of the resting Aaron Rodgers (and only his second NFL start ever), was on fire, completing 31-of-44 passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns while posting a passer rating of 136.4. The yardage and TD totals set franchise records.
With Flynn set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, it's likely that his Week 17 performance — coupled with his showing as a starter in a near-upset of the Patriots last season — earned the fourth-year pro a lot of money. He is the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to pass for at least six touchdowns in one of his first two career starts. He also is the fourth quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 475 yards and six touchdowns in the same game, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Y.A. Tittle, Joe Namath and Joe Montana.
It's widely assumed that Flynn, 26, will looking to sign with a team in need of a starting quarterback in 2012. With Rodgers in the fold in Green Bay, that starting opportunity is not coming in Wisconsin.
We took a look around the league, searching for teams that will in the market for a quarterback this offseason, and identified seven potential landing spots that we believe are the most likely for Flynn, listed in alphabetical order:
The Browns are positioned to make a big move at quarterback. They did not sign a free-agent passer nor did they draft a young signalcaller in 2011, and it would be surprising if they stood pat at the position this offseason. The Browns have two first-round picks — the No. 4 overall selection and Atlanta's first-rounder, which they received in the Julio Jones trade — which gives them a good deal of flexibility if they want to add a quarterback. Their 2011 starter, Colt McCoy, was inconsistent before leaving the lineup with a concussion, and backup Seneca Wallace didn't impress in his three starts to finish the season. Team president Mike Holmgren has had success trading for a Packers backup before; his acquisition of Matt Hasselbeck helped establish the Seahawks as a NFC West power from 2003-07. Flynn, a seemingly ready-made starter coming from a very successful offensive system in Green Bay, has plenty of attributes that could appeal to the Browns, who desperately need to upgrade their offense.
Even with a division title and playoff appearance to his credit, the Broncos are not sold on Tim Tebow as their long-term answer at quarterback. Head coach John Fox and VP of football operations John Elway certainly will bring in a quarterback to back up Tebow and potentially compete for a starting job in 2012. Many believe that will be through the draft, but if the duo believes that Flynn could push Denver's offense to the next level, they might be willing to spend some money to acquire him.
Green Bay Packers
In a perfect world, the Packers obviously would like to get something in return if Flynn splits the scene, and the one way that could happen would be to put a franchise tag on Flynn and then trade him, although such a move is technically illegal. But a perfect storm of factors would have to come together for the Packers to go this route. A key factor would be making sure a potential trading partner would be totally on board with making the financial adjustments necessary to land Flynn, who has become a very valuable commodity. The Packers risk being on the hook for the $14 million in salary Flynn would make as a "franchise" QB. With Aaron Rodgers already on the books for $9 million in cap money in 2012, a franchise tag for Flynn would throw the team's salary structure totally out of whack. The best guess among team insiders is that the Packers instead will "franchise" free-agent TE Jermichael Finley and bite the bullet with Flynn, but that is far from a given.
Flynn might seem like a logical choice for the Dolphins, who played themselves out of draft position to get either Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III without trading up. But Matt Moore's strong play this season along with owner Stephen Ross' overall goal of selling tickets and making a splash this offseason — at quarterback and head coach — make Flynn an unlikely target for Miami. Flynn isn't going to sell tickets, and he might not be that much better of an option than Moore, who earned lots of respect from his teammates this season. The Dolphins' best bet is to select their future franchise quarterback in the draft, or hope that Peyton Manning becomes a free agent and make a play for him.
New York Jets
Mark Sanchez came under plenty of fire this season, making 2012 a crucial make-or-break campaign for him. Behind Sanchez, the Jets have 41-year-old Mark Brunell, journeyman Kevin O'Connell and seventh-round rookie Greg McElroy. If the Jets want to put added pressure on Sanchez in camp and have better insurance to keep him on a short leash, they could try to sign Flynn. GM Mike Tannenbaum and owner Woody Johnson have made big moves before at quarterback (see: Brett Favre), but going after Flynn is still highly unlikely, especially considering the money the team already has tied up in Sanchez and all the public confidence the front office and Rex Ryan have put in Sanchez. Adding a veteran backup or a quarterback in the draft is the more logical route.
All signs point toward the Seahawks at least seriously considering going after Flynn. Tarvaris Jackson, who has one year remaining on a two-year deal with the team, was never considered to be the long-term answer. While Jackson had his moments despite having to play through a pectoral injury suffered in early October, his inability to direct successful late drives in Seattle's losses down the stretch don't bode well for his long-term future in Seattle. The only other QB under contract is undrafted rookie Josh Portis. Charlie Whitehurst, a free agent, has been a big disappointment and is not expected to be back. One more point definitely worth noting: Seahawks GM John Schneider knows all about Flynn from his time spent in the Packers' organization before joining Pete Carroll in Seattle.
The Redskins might not have had a scout at the Packers' Week 17 game against the Lions, but rest assured, they know what Flynn did that day. Sources have indicated that Flynn very much is a part of their thinking in the search for their 2012 starting quarterback. The team is capable and willing to be aggressive in the offseason to get players that they target as solutions, and owner Daniel Snyder previously was upset that his team was unable to swing trades to land Mark Sanchez when he was coming out and Jay Cutler when he became available a few years ago. Flynn might not carry as much heft as those two did at the time, but he could be the solution. However, if the Redskins believe they can move up into the top three picks to draft Robert Griffin III or perhaps Andrew Luck, all bets are off. The same goes if Peyton Manning hits the open market. The feeling around the team's Ashburn, Va., headquarters is that the Redskins need to win now with Mike Shanahan beginning to feel some heat about his job status.