Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has become an enigma lately. Unpredictable, and not in a good way. Erratic at times and prone to turnovers -- with six given away during this three-game losing streak (one interception and one lost fumble per contest in that span) -- Flacco is approaching a crossroads in his career. The Ravens desperately need steadier performances out of their usually stoic quarterback, who has shown signs of frustration in recent weeks when he has struggled. Already qualified for the playoffs and chasing a second consecutive AFC North title, the Ravens have a big financial decision to make on Flacco when the season is over. Now that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is gone, Flacco is no longer burdened by their rocky relationship. There should be no obstacles, at least mentally, to him succeeding on a consistent basis. This is supposed to be a fresh start with new offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, who gets along well with Flacco. It comes down to more than relationships, though. It comes back to Flacco taking care of the football, delivering it on time, getting into a rhythm and operating with a confidence that appears to have been shaken by how things have gone lately. Flacco is capable of much more. He has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback. He has a strong arm. He has sound mechanics most of the time, except when he gets pressured and starts throwing off his back foot. He has excellent size. He's durable and tough. He understands the game, and he cares about his teammates. What's going on with Flacco is he's pressing and putting too much pressure on himself instead of just simply going out and playing the way he has been coached. The Ravens need Flacco to start playing much better, starting Sunday against the Giants. He's expected to get wide receiver Torrey Smith back from a concussion. Flacco has to shake himself out of this funk he has been in and play solid football. The Ravens need to know what to do about Flacco's expiring rookie contract. They were prepared in August to give him a huge multi-year offer, but he declined the contract proposal and talks have been nonexistent since that point. They'll talk again in the offseason, and there's a chance something can still be worked out. Whether the Ravens put the franchise tag on Flacco, which will severely affect their ability to retain or bring in other free agents, put that big offer back on the table or reduce it some because of his declining play, is all up in the air. The Ravens aren't going to move on from Flacco, so he'll at least be franchised. This organization, from owner Steve Bisciotti to general manager Ozzie Newsome to coach John Harbaugh, wants nothing more than stability under center with Flacco for years to come. It's on his shoulders to make them feel good about making him a very rich man. He can accomplish that by how he plays against the Giants and in the weeks to come.
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