According to multiple reports, the Seahawks and Raiders have agreed in principal upon a deal that sends quarterback Matt Flynn to Oakland in exchange for draft picks. There has been no official confirmation from the teams as of yet and there hasn't been anything official reported on compensation, but Albert Breer has reported the Seahawks will get a 2013 pick and a 2014 conditional pick (or a 2014 pick and a 2015 conditional pick). Right now, according to Breer, Seattle has done their part for the trade but are waiting for the Raiders to finish up the details on their end. Ian Rapoport reports that it's unlikely anything is finalized tonight but both sides are close. Regardless, if these reports prove to be true, Flynn leaves after one season with the Hawks and should get a great chance to start for the Raiders in 2013.
Barring a contract restructure, Flynn is set to make $5.25M with Oakland this season and will count $4M against the Hawks cap this year in dead money (compared to $7.25M if he were to remain with the team), but that $5.25M salary this year and $7.25M next year was likely a big reason the Seahawks looked to move their quality backup.
Creating room under their cap right now is important to John Schneider and Pete Carroll so they can sign some of their drafted players that are nearing contract years.
Jason La Canfora, who was among the first to report the Raiders interest in Flynn, has also noted that former Bills and Chiefs QB Tyler Thigpen could be a frontrunner as the next Seahawks' backup.
Thigpen, as I noted earlier this week, was actually the first quarterback to run the pistol offense in the NFL, and the 2008 Chiefs, under Chan Gailey, even had some success with it - the Chiefs ended up with an awful record but Thigpen ended the season witha 21:12 TD to Interception ratio on 54% passing, 2,608 yards passing, and an additional 386 yards rushing (with three TDs). Thigpen averaged 6.2 yards per carry.
Thigpen thrived in the spread-style looks from Pistol (relative to his success in a normal 'pro-style' offense) while handing the ball off to Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles. Doug Farrar wrote about their innovative approach back in 2010, and Thigpen seemed optimistic then that the Pistol could work at this level if a team committed to it:
"I don't know. I think it could be run," he said. "I mean, the only thing that changed was me standing back in shotgun, and we called our plays the exact same way. The only thing you can't do is line a fullback up in I-formation. You probably could do that, but it's tough on the fullback with the formation distance. It was just me being in the shotgun and calling the plays the same way, whether it was 35 Base, or 36 Power, whatever the case may be.
"I think that's what teams do a lot -- they'll run different formations to get to the same exact play. That's the way you fool defenses. If you see a certain formation ... say it's bunch, and the defense is thinking toss. So maybe you motion to bunch with the 'Y' receiver up tight, and a fullback in the backfield, and in all actuality, that's a bunch play right there. There are so many different things you can do to mess with a defense. And a lot of the time, while you want to give the defense credit, you just have to know what you're doing and go out and execute it. We feel that as an offense, we can win those one-on-one matchups."
"The play action part, where you could boot out of it -- for some reason, that gave defensive ends a lot of trouble," he said. "A play like Gun Zero Near Pistol, or 337 Roll Right Z Comeback, something like that. It was definitely about getting out of the pocket and putting stress on the defensive ends because they couldn't see if it was a good fake, and they're trying to close down on the runner. That allowed me to get out of the pocket and work our receiver one-on-one with the comeback.
"It wasn't an option read; I would turn my back. It would look like I was coming from the line of scrimmage when I was doing the fake, but I was catching the ball in shotgun. More times than not, I'd come out scot-free on it."
Thigpen is talking about a lot of the concepts we have brought up here - about multiplicity within schemes (running your normal base offensive plays but in a pistol formation), getting matchups you want in order to create advantages, using read-option as a glorified naked bootleg, and 'blocking the defensive end' simply by freezing him with the threat of a run. Making it 11-on-11 instead of 11-on-10 by turning your QB into a threat to run.
More on the Pistol: The Seahawks, 49ers & the Pistol formation - Field Gulls
Now, it's important to remember that the read-option and pistol formations make up a small percentage of the Seahawks' base offensive plays with Russell Wilson under center (~5% on the year, ~11% toward the end of the season). You'd think that Seattle would want to find a guy that can throw, first and foremost, to back up Wilson, but Pete Carroll did specifically say, during his post-season presser, that it would be nice to find a quarterback that can do similar things to Russell Wilson.
If Thigpen (or another 'read-option' type of QB in the draft) were to be signed/drafted, perhaps the Seahawks' contingency plan for a Russell Wilson injury would be to run a limited, stripped down, run-based read-option pistol offense. Hold the QB's hand, avoid turnovers, use ball control, eat clock, and lean on your defense to keep the score close. This is similar to what Pete Carroll and Darrell Bevell did with Wilson early in 2012 and with Tarvaris Jackson in 2011.
In theory, because Thigpen's main talent lies with his athleticism and mobility (rather than as a pure passer), the read-option and pistol elements that he's comfortable in could help to simplify his reads, create one-on-one matchups on the outside for Seattle's receivers, and reduce the QB's responsibilities down to one- or two-reads. Not that Thigpen is RG3, but Washington's offense in 2012 was reportedly mostly first-read stuff. Play-action, throw deep, or duck and run. Hand off to Alfred Morris after freezing the defensive end, or run it yourself if the defensive end crashes. Simplified. We'll see if this is what Seattle has in mind, but as said, still a lot of speculation.