Quarterback Matt Flynn will be a free agent.
Pro Bowl center Scott Wells probably will be, too.
In all, 21 teams used the franchise tag by Monday’s deadline. The Packers, however, were not among them.
Minutes after the 3 p.m. deadline had passed, Flynn’s agent, Bill Johnson, told Packer Report that he “didn’t hear a word from the Packers (and) can only assume that we’re free.”
That means Flynn will be one of the hottest unrestricted free agents on the market when the free-agent signing period begins at 3 p.m. (Central) on Tuesday, March 13.
As we reported on Friday, the salary cap was the major obstacle in the Packers using a tag to retain Wells or trade Flynn. They would have had to release or drastically cut the salaries of Donald Driver or Chad Clifton.
Now that he’ll be a free agent, Miami, Cleveland and Seattle figure to be among those who will court Flynn. The Dolphins are starting over with former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, making Flynn a natural. The Browns tried to acquire Flynn in 2010. The Seahawks, with former Packers executive John Schneider calling the shots, badly need a quarterback, as well.
However, all three of those teams could get a quarterback through the draft, and with the collective bargaining agreement putting the brakes on rookie salaries, drafting one would be cheaper than trading for Flynn.
Had the Packers used the franchise tag and traded Flynn, there’s a good chance they would have received at least a second-round pick in April’s draft. It would have been a gamble, though. Without a trade partner in place, the Packers would have been on the hook for his $14.5 million contract. Really, the Packers would have needed more than one suitor in place. If just one team would have been willing to hand the Packers a high draft pick and Flynn a hefty amount of guaranteed money, that team would have held the leverage and could have held the Packers hostage.
Instead, the best-case scenario is the Packers will receive a free-agent compensatory pick at the end of the third round of the 2013 draft. Compensatory picks are based on several factors, with the largest being average yearly salary.
Franchising Flynn — even for the purpose of trading him — potentially would have upset MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who would have been making about $6.0 million less in 2012 than his backup.
Franchising Wells would have cost the Packers $9.4 million for 2012. From the Packers’ perspective, they could use their first-round pick on a center and not pay anywhere close to that much for the duration of the deal. For instance, Derek Sherrod, last year’s No. 1 pick, got a four-year deal worth $6.6 million. From Wells’ perspective, he’s 31 and finally in position to get a big-money deal, so he had little interest in signing before hitting the market. So, while a source told Packer Report that discussions were ongoing, a deal never really was in the cards. And with free agency just eight days away, there’s little reason for Wells to not test the market.
The Packers other free agents are running back Ryan Grant, defensive end Howard Green, linebacker Erik Walden and cornerbacks Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee.
This will be updated as news warrants.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.