Last year, both Alex Smith and Matt Flynn hit the open market as unrestricted free agents. Last year, both Smith and Flynn accepted offers not as valuable as they had expected to receive.
Last year, both entered training camp as the presumptive starting quarterbacks in San Francisco and Seattle. And while Flynn lost the job to Russell Wilson during training camp, Smith eventually joined Flynn as overpriced clipboard holders after Smith suffered a head injury and Colin Kaepernick left everyone else shaking theirs on a Monday night in November.
Now, both Smith and Flynn are clear-cut backups. Now, both are scheduled to make dramatically more in 2013 than Kaepernick and Wilson. Now, their respective teams are considering all options.
The options are simple. Keep the higher-paid backups at their current salaries. Keep them at lower rates of pay. Trade them. Or cut them.
Last week, 49ers CEO Jed York told PFT that he’d like to keep Kaepernick and Smith. Seahawks owner Paul Allen can definitely afford to do the same. And with mobile starters, it makes sense to have competent replacements.
The real questions are whether the lower-paid starters (Kaepernick has at least one more season in that category, and Wilson has at least two) will resent the notion that the guys who aren’t playing are earning millions more to do nothing, and likewise whether the guys earning millions more to do nothing would prefer to be doing more.
In both cases, the outcome could indeed turn on whether trades can be negotiated. But given that the market for both players was lukewarm a year ago, it’s hard to imagine a land rush breaking out for Smith or Flynn. Which means that, in the end, the 49ers and the Seahawks will have to decide whether to keep Smith and Flynn, respectively, at a high rate or pay and, possibly, a low willingness to stay.
And chances are that, if one or both teams part ways with their million-dollar understudies, they’ll eventually wish at some point that they still had them around.