Raiders' QB trade has many layers
April, 1, 2013
By Bill Williamson | ESPN.com
Getty ImagesGet to know these faces, as they are the Raiders' quarterbacks: Matt Flynn and Terrelle Pryor.
The Oakland Raiders’ reconstruction of their roster has hit the most important position on the field: quarterback.
The Raiders acquired Matt Flynn from Seattle for two draft picks Monday.
Like many of the changes this year, the move was fueled by finances, and it is difficult to argue whether Oakland has improved at the position. The Raiders are going to give Flynn, a quarterback who has spent five NFL seasons as a backup and started just two games, a chance to play.
Flynn -- who was in Green Bay for four years with Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie -- was Oakland’s backup plan to restructuring Carson Palmer’s contract. However, Palmer, 33, was reluctant to chop down his contract, so Oakland was forced to go elsewhere. He is reportedly in the process of being traded to Arizona for a low draft pick.
Yes, the deal does give Oakland some financial relief, although Palmer does count for more than $9 million in dead money on this year’s salary cap. But the move to acquire Flynn also cost the team some draft compensation, as Oakland will give Seattle a fifth-round draft pick in 2014 and a conditional pick in 2015. The Raiders have had a dearth of draft picks, and they didn’t want to lose any more choices. This is a franchise totally rebuilding, and it needs every pick it can get.
This move is a bitter one because Oakland gave up a first-round pick last year for Palmer, and it already owes the No. 35 overall pick in this month’s draft for him. These are all moves stemming from a desperation 2011 trade made by the previous Raiders regime.
The reality is the Raiders are now handing their quarterback position to a 27-year old player who is totally unproven. He will be learning on the job, and it also means the Raiders don’t believe in third-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor yet.
Oakland is very much in the rebuilding process. If Flynn -- who didn’t get any interest elsewhere -- doesn’t pan out, Oakland will be starting all over again next year.
This trade is defining for four quarterbacks, including top prospect Geno Smith. Let’s look at how:
Let’s make this clear: Flynn isn’t a huge get. He is a backup plan. But who knows, now that he's finally getting a chance to play, he could be good.
I’ve heard people compare him to Rich Gannon, who of course became a star for the Raiders.
Flynn has skills. But what we know is that he will be a first-time starter at age 28 (his birthday is in June) by the time the season begins.
He's in Oakland only because Palmer didn’t want to be. But this is his chance. I know Flynn was terribly disappointed to see Russell Wilson come in and beat him out last year. He thought Seattle was his chance to start after sitting behind Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay for so long. But once again, Flynn sat behind a better player.
The Seattle experience made Flynn a forgotten man around the league this year. No one else made a play for him once free agency began. Former Green Bay executive John Dorsey is now the general manager in Kansas City, and even the Chiefs ignored Flynn. Kansas City targeted Alex Smith all the way. Also, many in the league thought it was telling last year when Flynn’s offensive coordinator in Green Bay, Joe Philbin, never made a huge play for Flynn even though the Dolphins needed a quarterback.
To his credit, Flynn put up good numbers in a limited role with the Packers. Perhaps he will flourish in Oakland. ESPN's Matt Williamson thinks Flynn is a worthwhile endeavor for Oakland, but with limitations.
“I certainly understand the move,” Williamson said. “McKenzie & Co. are obviously very familiar with Flynn from their time together in Green Bay, but I hope they don’t think of him as the answer at quarterback.”
This trade is not a good sign for Pryor. This is a team that is in total rebuild mode. If the Raiders felt it was necessary to trade for an unproven quarterback instead of giving the ball to the third-year player who was already on the roster, it means the Raiders don’t think Pryor is ready for the job in any way.
That is a bit scary. When the Raiders thought Palmer would be in Oakland, McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen said Palmer was the starter, but Pryor would compete for the job.
I’m sure they'll say the same thing with Flynn in place. But this trade means the Raiders don’t believe in Pryor yet. He started the season finale last year, and though he was green, he showed some promise.
But the 2011 supplemental pick is still very much a work in progress. With Flynn coming in, the Raiders’ coaching staff will spend its time getting Flynn up to speed and Pryor will take a back seat.
If I were running the show in Oakland, I’d give the ball to Pryor and let him play. If he played well, the Raiders should have their answer at quarterback for the long term. If he played poorly, Oakland would know where it stands with Pryor in a season that likely didn’t have much promise anyway. Then Oakland could perhaps be in position to take a quarterback from what is expected to be a strong NFL draft crop next year.
Instead, the Raiders are rolling the dice on the veteran Flynn.
Let’s face it; Palmer doesn’t look very good as he leaves Oakland.
He reportedly refused to take his contract from $13 million down to $10 million because he didn’t believe in the Raiders’ chances. Oakland wanted him, but he didn’t want Oakland. Now it is being reported Palmer is slated to make $8 million from the Cardinals.
So he is OK with making less money with another team whose playoff hopes are small?
This is the second time Palmer has deserted a team. He basically retired from the Bengals in 2011. The only reason the Bengals relented and traded Palmer is because the Raiders offered so much for him in a desperation move when Jason Campbell was hurt.
At the time, Oakland head coach Hue Jackson, who triggered the trade and who is now an assistant in Cincinnati, called it the best trade in NFL history.
He might have been right. The Bengals got a steal.
This is an all-time bad trade by Oakland, and it has to go down as one of the worst in league history. For Oakland to be forced to get rid of Palmer weeks before the Bengals get to use a second-round pick for him is crippling.
Palmer put up some nice numbers in Oakland, but he never helped the team become a winner. He was 8-16 as the Raiders’ starter. Consider this: All-time draft bust JaMarcus Russell was 7-18 as the Raiders’ starter.
In the end, the Palmer experience was almost as disastrous as the Russell era.
One thing I like about this turn of events is that Oakland very likely will not be taking Smith, the quarterback prospect out of West Virginia, with the No. 3 pick in this month's draft. With so many other needs, the Raiders can’t afford to bring both Flynn and Smith onto the roster this season.
The Raiders have major needs on defense. That is where the pick should be spent, not on Smith, who is no sure thing.
There is a negative to this reality, though. The Raiders would like to trade down to get more picks. With the threat of Smith no longer being there, it could be more difficult trading the pick.
In the end, getting Flynn is a move Oakland didn’t want to make that has major repercussions. The team can only hope it works out.