How the Seattle Seahawks can close the gap with the San Francisco 49ers
By Jake Luppino
Is the Seahawks’ philosophy outdated?
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. That is indeed, Matt Flynn. Back in 2012, when the Seattle Seahawks signed Matt Flynn to a 3-year, $19.5 million deal, there was a buzz in the Pacific Northwest. The hype surrounding Flynn gave everyone confidence that they finally found Matt Hasselbeck’s replacement. More impressively, they seemed to have found their guy without overpaying.
At the time, the highest-paid quarterback, Peyton Manning, nearly tripled Matt Flynn’s yearly salary. The next two highest-paid quarterbacks – Sam Bradford & Philip Rivers – more than doubled Flynn’s yearly salary. In 2012, the cap was set at roughly $120M and Seattle entered that offseason with about $60M to spend. Of course, we know how this story ended. Russell Wilson was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 Draft and Matt Flynn became an afterthought.
Building around Russell on his rookie contract allowed Seattle to put the right pieces around him. In fact, they built one of the best defenses in the history of this league. But, the truth is, if Russell Wilson wasn’t drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, they would have been able to use the same philosophy with Matt Flynn given his salary compared to others at his position. Now, would they still end up winning a Super Bowl? We’ll never know.
However, the point being is they still would have had the opportunity to build a good all-around team, given the structure of the cap and how they spread the money. This leads me to my question, is the Seahawks’ philosophy outdated? After drafting Russell Wilson and having tremendous success while on his rookie deal — 1 Super Bowl victory & 2 Super Bowl appearances — the Seahawks wanted to continue that in 2017 and 2018 when they had a potential interest in both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.
Yet, over the last decade of the NFL, the data would suggest that philosophy is outdated. Let’s take a look at the last 10 Super Bowl winners.
- 7 on their 2nd or more contract: Tom Brady (2015 Patriots, 2017 Patriots, 2019 Patriots, 2021 Buccaneers), Peyton Manning (2016 Broncos), Matthew Stafford (2022 Rams), Patrick Mahomes (2023 Chiefs)
- 2 on rookie contracts: Russell Wilson (2014 Seahawks) & Patrick Mahomes (2020 Chiefs)
- 1 outlier: Nick Foles (2018 Eagles) where he served as Carson Wentz’s backup
None of those 7 Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks were getting max dollars at the time. Interestingly enough, the data supports Seattle’s initial approach with Matt Flynn. While Flynn was in the middle of the pact in terms of cap hit in 2012, the idea of paying your quarterback less than top dollar and building around him is what Seattle can now do in 2023.
With the draft coming up and speculation surrounding the Seahawks taking a quarterback at pick number 5, they are presented with a unique opportunity. Draft your franchise quarterback or re-sign Geno Smith and continue to put pieces around him. In fact, they can copy the San Francisco 49ers’ approach in 2018 when they extended QB Jimmy Garoppolo after trading for him in 2017.