Seahawks trade backup QB Flynn to Raiders

The Seattle Seahawks sent Matt Flynn to Oakland not so much for what they got in return, but for what the move will help them retain.

That became clear when the trade, which was first reported Friday, became official Monday with the Seahawks announcing they have sent their backup quarterback to Oakland for a fifth-round pick in 2014 and a conditional 2015 pick. That compensation could help the Seahawks improve — cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor, two key pieces of Seattle’s defense, were fifth-round picks — but the reality of that relatively low compensation is that the trade was made with future salary-cap implications in mind.

And while taking care of their own team was the top priority for Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, giving Flynn a chance to start somewhere else was a secondary benefit of the trade.

“We’ve talked all along about trying to be able to extend (the contracts of) some of our own players, and this helps,” Schneider told Sports Radio KJR. “This wasn’t a prerequisite or anything, our primary (salary-cap) model included Matt, but it was something where it was brought to our attention and we just felt like, for all parties involved, it was the best thing.”

By moving Flynn, the Seahawks save $3.25 million in cap space this season, money that can be rolled over to next year if the Seahawks are under the cap in 2013, which they likely will be. It also gets Flynn, who signed a three-year deal last spring, off the books for 2014. While it was unlikely Flynn would have been here beyond this season, moving him a year from now would have meant a $2 million cap hit in 2014 that now goes away. Seattle may not need that money right away, but for a team that is trying to extend Chancellor’s contract (he can become a free agent next year) and likely will try to extend Sherman and safety Earl Thomas next year (they can become free agents after the 2014 season) freeing up some cap space now could make the difference in keeping the defensive backfield nucleus intact.

Flynn, 27, spent four seasons backing up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, then signed with Seattle last year with the expectation he would compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. That was before the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in the third round. The rookie won the job and never looked back, helping lead Seattle to an 11-5 season and making it abundantly clear he’s the franchise’s quarterback of the future.

And while having a backup quarterback of Flynn’s caliber was a luxury the Seahawks could afford this year, they decided it was better to look to the future now, even if the compensation wasn’t huge.

“Quarterbacks aren’t the easiest to move,” Schneider said. “… You need a number of teams who are aggressive.”

That, of course, means the Seahawks are currently without a backup to Wilson. Multiple reports suggest that the Seahawks could sign former Bills backup Tyler Thigpen, an athletic quarterback who has experience running the read-option, which became part of Seattle’s offense late last season. Former USC standout Matt Leinart also has been mentioned as a possibility, which shouldn’t be too big of a surprise considering the Seahawks looked at bringing him into the mix in 2011 before Leinart signed with Houston. One option that isn’t on the table for Seattle is Colt McCoy, who was expected to be cut by Cleveland. Instead, the Browns traded him to San Francisco on Monday.

Whether the Seahawks sign a veteran quarterback or not, there is now a pretty good likelihood they will address the position in the draft. The most likely scenario would be for Seattle to sign a veteran and draft a quarterback, then let the two compete for the backup job.

“That would be ideal, but you never know how the draft plays out,” Schneider said. “We’ll see how that goes. We’re not in a situation where we feel like we need to reach for a player at any position, really.”

The Raiders were in the market for a quarterback because they were unable to convince last year’s starter, Carson Palmer, to take a pay cut. By trading for Flynn, the Raiders made it clear Palmer is not part of their future. But rather than release him, they appear to have a trade partner lined up in the NFC West. According to reports, Palmer will be traded to Arizona, a team that has been a mess at quarterback since Kurt Warner retired.

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.

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