Assessing stakes for Flynn, Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks went through their first two seasons under Pete Carroll without paying true starting money to a quarterback.

That remains the case after the team reached agreement Sunday on a three-year contract with free agent Matt Flynn.

The deal maxes out at $26 million with incentives, but the average stands just north of $6 million per year. That is more than the team paid previous veteran acquisitions Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst, but not dramatically so.

Flynn did not get franchise quarterback money. Kevin Kolb got more from the Arizona Cardinals in eight months -- $19 million -- than Flynn will get from Seattle in three years unless he hits incentives. Flynn got probable starter money and no public promises.

Just ask Carroll.

"We are really excited to bring Matt in here to compete with Tarvaris," Carroll said in a statement released by the team.

Moderate bets on Whitehurst and Jackson have returned little during Carroll's first two seasons. A slightly larger bet on Flynn beats the dwindling list of alternatives. Peyton Manning wasn't interested in Seattle. Alex Smith became a more likely possibility late in the process, but the Seahawks weren't going to wait around, obviously.

Developing Flynn becomes the top priority for Seattle in 2012.

The Seahawks haven't had a truly ascending player at the position since Matt Hasselbeck was on the rise a decade ago. Flynn, like Hasselbeck, came to Seattle from Green Bay, and with limited experience.

Back then, coach Mike Holmgren said he would "sink or swim" with the decision to acquire Hasselbeck.

Carroll's comments about Flynn competing for the starting job suggest the Seahawks do not see the Flynn acquisition in a similar light. That's understandable. Holmgren saw the world through the quarterback position, while Carroll is a defensive-minded head coach trying to win with a strong ground game.

Flynn, 26, has a chance to prove himself and return to the bargaining table in three years, perhaps sooner if he plays well. Last offseason, Flynn might have gotten a Kolb-type windfall. But with Manning casting a shadow over the market and Seattle insisting upon a disciplined financial approach, Flynn will have to earn more of his money.

Give the Seahawks' current leadership credit for landing Flynn at a reasonable price. They did not rush into a bad contract to appease a restless public. There was no panic. Seattle remains in position to draft a quarterback or acquire another veteran if the Flynn experiment fails after one season.

But a team's leadership cannot go forever without finding the right quarterback. It's possible to strike out without swinging for the fences.