My greatest concern is not that the Dolphins didn't land Matt Flynn, although it does raise flags, eyebrows and hackles. No, my biggest concern is that with Flynn gone to Seattle, with Peyton Manning not interested, and with the quarterback market thinning, the Dolphins will fall in love with mediocre Alex Smith.
And then pay mediocre Alex Smith like he's franchise quarterback Alex Smith.
My concern is that Miami will do for Smith more than San Francisco, the team that knows him best, was willing to do. My concern is that in knowing Matt Flynn as well as they did, in knowing Ryan Tannehill as well as they do, in knowing what Peyton Manning could be if healthy, in knowing inside information on Robert Griffin III, the Dolphins will go with the guy they know least about and pay him like they know he's really good.
Why is this an issue? Well, The Denver Post reported the Dolphins were in negotiations with Smith on what the newspaper said was an $8 million per year contract. If you put one plus one together and assume the report is true (same paper reported the Houston Texans were interested in Peyton Manning and they were not), then you're building a case for a tremendous overpayment of a solid game managing QB.
Let's face it, Smith is coming off his best season. It was his career year. He threw a modest 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. Nice work. Good work. Not franchise quarterback work. Assuming he repeats the best work of his seven NFL years, he is still not the "quarterback to get us over the top," that general manager Jeff Ireland said the team wanted to land this offseason.
And yet Miami is going to pay him $8 million per season?
What makes this seem odd is that Miami apparently didn't want to pay Flynn a relatively modest contract. The Seahawks got him for three years and $21.3 million with $10 million in guaranteed money. That's an average of $7.1 million per season.
I know, I know, you've heard the Flynn deal was for three years and $26 million. That figure is accurate only if Flynn meets practically every single incentive sewn into the fabric of the deal, which is a practical impossibility on most deals. It is done, nonetheless, because it motivates the player, makes him sound more expensive, makes the agent happy, and the team doesn't really mind.
Flynn's deal actually pays an average of $6.6 million per season the first two years and then kicks in $8.1 million in the final year. Only if Flynn meets a boatload of incentives can he inflate the average to $8 million per season those first two years, which is something both the player and the team want.
If Flynn's a great quarterback, he'll be around in 2014 to collect on what is, with all incentives kicking in, up to $10 million. In truth, if he's a great QB by 2014, the Seahawks would likely extend Flynn's deal to make it more cap friendly that backloaded year anyway.
But if he stinks, he's out. Gone. Finished. And the club will be on to the next quarterback and likely on its next coach because when the quarterback fails, pretty much everyone fails.
The point is Flynn's deal is really more like a two-year commitment. It does not average the $8.6 million per year that is being reported. It rises to that level only if the guy is a star. And if he's anything less, he'll be averaging more like $7 million per year, including that backloaded final year that he might or might not ever see. In the first couple of years he's not even averaging $7 which is modest for an NFL starting quarterback.
And the Dolphins didn't want to meet this price? But they're going to pay more than that Smith?
Smith has improved slowly and steadily each of the past three seasons. He had a solid 90.7 passer rating last season. And with all that improvement and all that good news, he's still a guy that completed only 46 percent of his passes in San Francisco's biggest game of the year, the NFC title game. He's a guy that got only one of his 12 completions that day to a wide receiver.
I tweeted that factoid on Sunday and some folks responded that was only because his receiver corps was not good in San Francisco. I left it at that on twitter, but won't do so here.
Let me ask you ... is Miami's receiver corps today any better than San Francisco's? Think on that.
[Personal note: A couple of months ago I wrote the Dolphins should draft a QB. I said they should draft two QBs if they had to. I am an advocate of finding your own, developing him and, succeed or fail, at least you did it with your guy rather than inheriting someone else's guy. I just wish the Dolphins would be more courageous and actually find a QB in the draft. Is it a guarantee of success? No. But obviously free agency quarterback searches the past two years haven't been the answer.]