Packers do not use franchise tag on Flynn

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Now available to the highest bidder: The Green Bay Packers’ all-time leading passer, quarterback Matt Flynn.

As the deadline passed at 3 p.m. CST, the Packers opted not to use their franchise tag and Flynn is officially an unrestricted free agent.

With NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers in his prime and coming off his best season, there was no room for Flynn to play in Green Bay. However, Packers general manager Ted Thompson could have used Flynn as a trade asset. That would have required Thompson to slightly bend the rules by using the franchise tag on Flynn and then trading him. This is frowned upon by the NFL, but is not illegal and happens commonly.

But, that did not happen, and now Flynn is free to sign with any team he chooses. The best that Green Bay will receive in return once Flynn signs with another team is a compensatory pick in the 2013 draft, which will likely be in the third round.

Though Flynn has only started two games in his NFL career, one of those two starts was a record-breaking performance against the Detroit Lions in Week 17 of this past season. In that game, with the Packers already having clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed, Rodgers took the day off and gave Flynn an opportunity to play. The Packers’ record books would never be the same again as Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns to become Green Bay’s all-time single-game leader in both of those categories. That was a better statistical game than Rodgers or Brett Favre ever accomplished.

Flynn — a seventh-round pick of the Packers in 2008 — could be pursued by several teams beginning at the start of free agency on March 13. The Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins are all possible landing spots for Flynn.

The No. 2 spot behind Rodgers in Green Bay will now likely be Graham Harrell’s to lose. Harrell went undrafted in 2009 out of Texas Tech and began his professional career in the Canadian Football League. He signed with the Packers in May 2010 and spent most of the next two seasons on Green Bay’s practice squad. However, when the Buffalo Bills attempt to sign Harrell to their active roster in December 2011, the Packers promoted Harrell and Green Bay held three quarterbacks on their active roster throughout the remainder of the season. Retaining Harrell then was an anticipatory move by Thompson, as Flynn was already considered to likely be playing elsewhere in 2012 even before his breakout game in Week 17.

Follow Paul Imig on Twitter.