As you’ve probably heard by now, the San Francisco 49ers have agreed to a trade that will send their backup quarterback, Alex Smith, to Kansas City in exchange for the Chiefs’ second-round pick this year, and a mid-round pick in 2014.
Deal has been agreed upon between Chiefs and 49ers. Compensation unclear but I’m told again Chiefs have made a clear commitment to Smith.
— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) February 27, 2013
Chiefs traded second-round pick, the second pick in the second round, to SF. Niners also got another conditional mid-round pick in 2014.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2013
So what does this have to do with the Seahawks? Well for starters, the 49ers are Seattle’s biggest obstacle in the way of an NFC West title, so if San Francisco makes good use of those picks, that’s bad news for the Seahawks, right? The 49ers are loaded with picks now, so they could find an impact player or two that makes them better, or as many have speculated, they’re in a great position to package picks together for a trade if an impact player was available (Darrelle Revis or Percy Harvin, perhaps?). If the ‘Niners turn this trade into a player of that caliber, that’s obviously not good for the Seahawks.
Yet in a way this can be good news for the Seahawks. Like San Francisco, Seattle has a backup quarterback who could be a starter on a lot of quarterback-needy teams in the NFL. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have made it clear that they are happy to keep Matt Flynn and have a very good backup to Russell Wilson, but Schneider has also admitted on multiple occasions that he would listen to offers. And this is where the Smith deal comes in. Flynn was never going to command as high a price in a trade as Smith, who has been a starter and who led the 49ers to the NFC Championship game two seasons ago, but the 49ers got more for Smith than most anyone figured they would. So if Smith is worth a pick at the top of the second round and a mid-rounder next year, what does that make Flynn worth? Perhaps a third round pick plus a mid-to-late rounder? That’s better than a lot of people have been predicting for Flynn’s value, and now if a team tries to lowball the Seahawks in trade talks, they can point to the Smith trade as a starting point in negotiations. It’s no secret that this draft class isn’t strong at quarterback; that’s evident in what Kansas City gave up, and it should help the Seahawks get decent value if they should choose to move Flynn.
Of course, then the argument comes up of whether the Seahawks should trade a quality backup for something along the lines of a third-round pick. Should Wilson get hurt, Flynn would become one of the team’s most important players, but is it worth paying an insurance policy more than $5 million? And before you say that the Seahawks are fine on the salary cap this year, so Flynn’s salary doesn’t matter, remember that cap space rolls over, so replacing Flynn wouldn’t just mean saving money this year, it would mean having more cap space in the future, which will be important as many of Seattle’s key players have their rookie contracts coming up in the next two of years.
Is a good backup quarterback valuable? Absolutely. Is it more valuable than re-signing Kam Chancellor, who is a free agent after this year? Unless you’re assuming Wilson is going to miss a good chunk of next season, the answer is no. And if they can get some value for Flynn, I’m of the opinion that Schneider and Carroll would like to give him a chance to be a starter somewhere. They’ll only do so if they think they can help the team in the process, and after seeing the 49ers get real value for their backup, albeit a more accomplished backup, it appears Seattle will be able to get a decent return if they do trade Flynn.