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Buyer beware: Free-agent darling Flynn carries too much risk

I always thought the phrase "caveat emptor" sounded like something you would call a Greek or Roman king who took over entire continents with nothing but a sword and a chariot. Yes, I'm picturing Gerard Butler from 300. I think I was 25 when I learned it actually meant "Let the buyer beware." (In a related note, I think I was also 25 when I realized that when Bugs Bunny said "What a maroon," he meant "moron.")

There is no player you have to beware of more right now than Matt Flynn, yet he's everyone's darling. He could change the fortunes of the right team! (For better or for worse, actually.)

I've always said quarterbacks are a gut feel. If you like a guy, you like a guy. If he produces, he's the player who keeps general managers and head coaches employed. If not, you're fired. So by all means get the one you want. But Flynn is just too much of a wild card to take a chance on. I'd be interested in him if I had a starter I wanted pushed, and if said starter didn't respond, then I could give Flynn a whirl to see if he's my guy. But I don't want to hand him a briefcase with $40 million in it.

Here's why:

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1. Beware the one-game wonder. No, I'm not going to go all Nena on you with random one-hit wonders. Instead, I'll remind you that everyone's a super hero, everyone's a Rob Johnson. Kelly Holcomb's on the line as 99 red balloons go by. In the past 12 years, the Bills and Browns, among others, made quarterback switches that changed the course of their franchises because those players had one really good game. Johnson excelled in a meaningless Week 17 game in 1999, while Holcomb threw for 429 yards and three touchdowns in a Browns' playoff loss to the Steelers in 2003. As you know, neither panned out. Buffalo took 10 years to find its next hopeful QB of the future, and the Browns are still looking. Johnson and Holcomb were career backups who had their one shining moment. Their teams committed to them and it didn't work out. It's why no one gets married after one great date.

2. Remember the draft position. Matt Schaub ruined it for everyone. Stuck behind Michael Vick, he played well in glimpses, so Houston gave him a lot of money as a free agent and he's worked out well. But that's more the exception than the rule. Schaub was drafted in the third round, so he had some pedigree. Flynn was a seventh-round afterthought who overachieved in practice for four years. That's nice, but it doesn't mean he's the next Tom Brady. It's a lot easier to play a hunch at QB when he's making $500K. Try doing it when you have to give him $28 million guaranteed.

3. If they don't want him, you don't want him. (Also known as "The Kevin Kolb Rule.") Flynn is in the same spot as Kolb was last offseason (except with five fewer starts under his belt). He was the budding star stuck behind a franchise quarterback who was going to light it up wherever he went. Instead, now he's dueling with John Skelton for the right to be a placeholder for Peyton Manning. (OK, that's a little speculative ...) We should have been wary of Kolb last year. He was good in spurts, but Andy Reid took the starting position away from him twice and gave it to Michael Vick. Despite not knowing if Vick could stay healthy, Reid was comfortable letting Kolb go to Arizona. Danger, Will Robinson, danger! When is the last time Reid's been wrong about letting a quarterback go? Donovan McNabb, A.J. Feeley and Jeff Garcia. Philadelphia waved good-bye after each played well to various degrees for the Eagles and none of them made a further dent in the NFL. When he lets someone go, you stay away.

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While it's not quite the same situation, monitor the Dolphins' interest in Flynn. Joe Philbin, the new head coach in Miami, knows Flynn inside and out from the last four years in Green Bay. If the Dolphins don't make a play for him, what does that tell you? He's not who everyone thinks he is. In fact, let's say Miami is looking elsewhere -- possibly to Ryan Tannehill in the draft and maybe Peyton Manning. What does that do to the market for Flynn? It drives it so far down his agent is actually calling the Packers back. But in an odd turn of events, it could loosen up the market a little bit, because I can get him cheaply and play my hunch. He won't get the payday or the guaranteed starting position, but he'll get more money than he has now and the possibility to be a QB1.

After reading this, don't think I'm anti-Flynn. He has potential. I'm anti-price tag. It's like when I go shopping and see a shirt that I fall in love with. I think, "Boy, when I have this on, I'll look like George Clooney." But the shirt is $100. I can't justify that to my wife. But then I look closer and love it even more when I see it's 60 percent off. And then I love it even more when I see it's marked at 60 percent off with a red tag that says "75 percent off of lowest price on tag." I do the math in my head and get all tingly. Then I take it to the register. And if it pills in the wash or rips or tears, who cares? It was only a $10 shirt and I can go get a new one with minimal damage to my bank account -- I'm not stuck with a shoddy shirt that I feel obligated to wear because of its price tag.

Caveat emptor.

Jason Smith writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks that you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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