I get a lot of questions about Matt Flynn and his contract with the Seahawks, in terms of keeping him, trading him, or cutting him. Which is the best option? Let me start by laying out his contract in the simplest terms: During free agency, in 2012, Matt Flynn signed a three-year contract worth $19.50M.
The contract was broken up as follows:
$6.0M signing bonus
$2.0M base salary in 2012
$5.25M base salary in 2013
$6.25M base salary in 2014
Signing Bonuses are pro-rated over the life of the contract, making his Salary Cap Schedule look like this:
2012: $4.0M ($2.0M pro-rated signing bonus + $2.0M base)
2013: $7.25M ($2.0M pro-rated signing bonus + $5.25M base)
2014: $8.25M ($2.0M pro-rated signing bonus + $6.25M base)
Two other keys to the contract are:
(1) $10M of the contract was guaranteed, meaning $2M of Flynn's $5.25M base salary in 2013 is guaranteed.
(2) There were $7M dollars of incentives, these incentives are unlikely to be met in Seattle, but perhaps could be met playing for some other NFL team.
HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU SAVE IF YOU TRADE MATT FLYNN?
If you trade Matt Flynn this offseason, you would save $5.25M in 2013, as the acquiring team would pick up his salary, and his guaranteed $2.0M.
So, you would save $5.25M in cash, which does make a difference to the football operations budget.
I know Paul Allen is supposed to have unlimited money, but $5.25M is a real $5.25M, and is valuable to any organization and owner, no matter how financially strong. I believe the Seahawks are financially strong, but again- this is real cash here. You would obviously save the $6.25M in 2014 as well.
Cash is important, but salary cap is probably more important. How much cap space would Seattle save by trading Matt Flynn?
In 2012, the Seattle Seahawks paid Matt Flynn $8M in cold cash. They paid him $6M the day he signed his contract and $2M during the regular season. Here is the "problem" with that. They only booked $4.0M in cap expenses for Flynn in a year they paid him $8.0M.
How would you like it if the 49ers signed Percy Harvin, and paid him $10.0M in 2013 but only had to charge $5.0M toward their cap? Well, that other $5.0M in this "Percy Harvin" scenario has to be accounted for eventually. This is referred to as "bonus pro-ration" while the player is on your roster, and "dead money" when the player is not on your roster.
The Seattle Seahawks, if they trade or cut Matt Flynn, must account for the fact that they only charged $4.0M toward their cap in 2012 in a year they paid him $8.0M, meaning they have to take a $4.0M "dead money" charge in 2013 if he is traded before June 1st, 2013.
So - SIMPLE ANSWER - if you trade Matt Flynn, you would save $3.25M in cap dollars in 2013 ($7.25M cap if you kept him less $4.0M dead money charge = $3.25M). You'd also get a draft pick (or picks) or player(s) in return.
HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU SAVE IF YOU CUT MATT FLYNN?
Peter King has suggested that the Seahawks would cut Matt Flynn. This has a different repercussion toward Seattle beyond the fact that the Seahawks would not receive a draft pick in compensation. If there is no "off-set" in Matt Flynn's contract language, Seattle would have to foot the bill for $2.0M guaranteed. Remember, the contract guaranteed him $10.0M when he signed it, and Seattle has only paid him $8.0M so far. Let's say another team picks him up as a backup, or starter, and pays him $2.0M per year. If there is no "off-set," then I believe Matt receives $2.0M from Seattle no matter how much the other team pays him. That is a nice thing for Matt, if the contract is written that way, as he nets another $2.0M.
So - SIMPLE ANSWER - the entire cap hit to the Seahawks for CUTTING Matt Flynn is now $6.0M ($2.0M guaranteed base salary + $4.0M in remaining signing bonus that had never been accounted for in 2012).
So, if you cut Matt Flynn, you would save $3.25M in cash, but only $1.25M in "cap" ($7.25M salary cap if you keep him less $6.0M salary cap if you cut him = $1.25M).
NOTE: If there is AN OFFSET in Flynn's contract, and he gets paid $2.0M or more in 2013 from another NFL team, than the savings for the Seahawks would be similar to if Flynn was traded, without the obvious benefit of receiving a draft pick in compensation.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT 2014
One more thing. It is a bit shortsighted to think - "Hey, we only save $1.25M in 2013 if we cut him, he is worth more than $1.25M to us." This is probably true, but in 2014, if Matt Flynn is still a Seahawk, you will have to take a $2.0M dead money charge if you cut him a year from now - i.e, if you wait to cut Matt after next season, you still will see some dead money. On the other hand, if you cut or trade him now, in 2013, you walk into 2014 with ZERO dead money tied to Matt Flynn.
So, let's compare a trade situation, even if you got only a 7th round pick for Matt Flynn, to a non-trade situation:
SCENARIO A vs SCENARIO B:
SCENARIO A (Keep Flynn in 2013)
*$7.25M cap hit in 2013
*$2.0M dead money cap hit in 2014 (we're assuming he is gone in 2014)
*$9.25M total cap charge over 2013 and 2014
*Matt Flynn's services as a backup QB in 2013
SCENARIO B (Trade Flynn in 2013)
*$4.0M cap charge in 2013 (dead money)
*zero cap charge in 2014
*$4.0M total cap charge over 2013 and 2014
*another draft pick (could be a 7th rounder)
So, again, you might want to keep the two-year horizon in view, not just the one-year horizon. While I am not sure it makes sense to cut Matt Flynn, it may make sense to trade him, even if you only get low round consideration. Hope this helps, we'll see what happens in a few weeks.