ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Baltimore Ravens have agreed in principle to trade former-Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco to the Denver Broncos. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport added that the Broncos are sending a mid-round pick for Flacco.
Trades can’t be processed until the new NFL league year starts on March 13, so teams won’t be able to comment on the deal or terms until then.
But as we know, quarterbacks make the football world go round. So let’s start by breaking down the implications for both teams.
Joe Flacco Is (Presumably) Denver’s Starting QB
Broncos general manager John Elway said that 2018 starter Case Keenum “is probably a short-term fix” about a month ago, so it’s tough to see the team choosing to pick up his $21 million team option for the 2019 season.
This means that Mr. Elite is (probably) a starter once again!
Of course, Flacco hasn’t resembled anything close to even an average quarterback since leading the Ravens to Super Bowl glory back in the day.
Joe Flacco was brilliant in leading the 2012 Ravens to a Super Bowl victory
Flacco's stats and ranks among 49 QBs with at least 16 starts in 2013-2018:
Adjusted yards per attempt: 6.04 (43rd)
TD Rate: 3.5% (38th)
QB Rating: 82.3 (39th)
Money earned: $124,000,000
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 13, 2019
Flacco actually averaged four-season highs in adjusted yards per attempt (6.4) and quarterback rating (84.2) over his nine starts this past season. Still, these numbers each ranked 26th among 31 quarterback that made at least nine starts.
Optimistic Broncos fans could call this move a slight upgrade over what Keenum brought to the table last season. Less optimistic fans will probably call this move another last-gasp effort to regain their footing as one of the AFC’s top contenders when they should be rebuilding.
The good news for the Broncos is the nature of Flacco’s contract gives them plenty of options.
The Broncos Can Still Draft a First-Round Quarterback
Our Matthew Freedman’s 2019 NFL Mock Draft has the Broncos taking an offensive tackle with the 10th overall pick, and my top-three needs for the team entering the offseason were quarterback, right tackle and cornerback.
This signing doesn’t change those needs.
Flacco’s team-friendly contract gives the Broncos plenty of flexibility to draft their future quarterback.
Per @spotrac looks like the Broncos can get out of Joe Flacco's contract after just one season. Wonder if Flacco will end up grooming another 1st-round QB after how well he took the Lamar Jackson replacement pic.twitter.com/LQOQ38Qjs3
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) February 13, 2019
Having Flacco means that the team doesn’t need to stress and trade up for someone like Dwayne Haskins, but perhaps they’ll look to take a more developmental talent such as Kyler Murray or Drew Lock and start them once they’re ready.
The Broncos were +1400 to draft Murray as of Tuesday.
As for the 2019 Broncos … Meh
It’s tough to see Flacco igniting the Broncos offense into anything other than a league-average unit … unless they’re able to improve their offensive line. The health of Emmanuel Sanders and maturation of Courtland Sutton will also be critical components.
The SuperBook at Westgate has already stated that the Broncos’ 60-1 odds to win the Super Bowl haven’t changed since the Flacco news broke, which is probably fair considering the quarterback’s underwhelming track record of success in recent years.
Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello hasn’t worked as the play-caller at the NFL level before, but he did spend the 2015, 2017 and 2018 seasons on Kyle Shanahan’s staff with the Falcons and Broncos. Scangarello will need to get the most out of Flacco’s big arm and veteran experience to avoid having 2019 turn into another lost season for Denver.
Welcome to Lamar Jackson Szn in Baltimore
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh already confirmed Jackson was the starter moving forward. This deal does allow the Ravens to move forward with attempting to find a backup to match Jackson’s dual-threat style. (CC: Tyrod Taylor.)
But this deal is bad news for passing offense’s production considering the Ravens averaged 273.9 yards through the air in Weeks 1-9 with Flacco under center compared to just 160.9 passing yards in Weeks 12 through the team’s Wild Card loss with Jackson.
Of course, Jackson’s ridiculous rushing ability is the potential difference-maker that could help make this a smooth transition. Overall, he gained the seventh-most rushing yards (556) among all players between Weeks 11-17 and worked as the league’s QB8.
The 2019 Ravens will have to continue to do what they did during the second half of last season: Run the ball and play elite defense.
Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Pictured: Joe Flacco