The Miami Dolphins learned Monday there would be one fewer obstacle in the way when they try to acquire a quarterback on the free agent market. The Green Bay Packers declined to use their franchise tag on reserve quarterback Matt Flynn, meaning he will become an unrestricted free agent later this month.
Had the Packers franchised Flynn, they could have matched any offer another team would give him, or attempt to trade Flynn for draft picks. Instead, Miami (and 28 other teams) will have a chance to be the high bidder for Flynn, who has fast become one of the two most intriguing quarterbacks on the market this winter.
Meanwhile, the other most intriguing quarterback that might become a free agent, Peyton Manning, will learn his fate this week. The Indianapolis Colts are due to pay him a $28 million bonus if he is still on their roster Thursday, and are expected to release him before the bill comes due. With the first pick in April's NFL Draft, the Colts are all but guaranteed to select Stanford QB Andrew Luck and rebuild around him, and not Manning.
The Dolphins are considered among the favorites to land either quarterback. New coach Joe Philbin was Flynn's offensive coordinator in Green Bay, and is said to be pushing for Flynn at Dolphins headquarters. Meanwhile, team owner Stephen Ross is an ardent Manning supporter, and thinks the 36-year-old veteran could revitalize the Dolphins' offense and ticket sales.
Sports Illustrated's Will Carroll reported Monday that Manning has been making "massive improvements" in his rehabilitation from spinal fusion surgery. A source who has seen Manning's offseason workouts told him Manning should be ready to rejoin full practices when team minicamps open later in the spring.
One thing is relatively certain: the Dolphins will likely not try to acquire the second pick in the draft from the St. Louis Rams and select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Miami Herald reported on Monday that Manning is plan A, with Flynn plan B.
Miami also opted not to use its own franchise tag yesterday (on Paul Soliai or Kendall Langford). Doing so gives the team much more room under the salary cap, and more flexibility to offer a competitive contract to either quarterback.
But for now, the waiting game continues until either Manning or Flynn hit the open market.