The NFL season just ended Sunday, so there is still a lull of player movement, but the Ravens should be able to get good compensation for quarterback Joe Flacco if they decide to trade him as expected.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after the team’s wild-card playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that rookie Lamar Jackson would be the team’s starting quarterback moving forward, which indicated the Ravens would either trade or waive Flacco, who has three years remaining on his current contract.
New Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta said last week that the team would have more strategies in place for Flacco and other players by the beginning of March. Free agency starts March 13.
Several teams are expected to compete for Flacco in a trade, and the Ravens should be able to get a second- or third-round draft pick, and maybe both.
“They might not get what they want, but they will be able to trade him easily,” one NFL official said. “He is a commodity. He can still play three, four or maybe five years in this league. When you look at some of the other starters in this league, Joe is still better than a lot of them. There are going to be three or four teams very interested.”
That’s because Flacco, 34, still has too many positives working in his favor. Since he took over as the starter in his rookie season in 2008, the Ravens have won a Super Bowl, played in three AFC championship games and won the AFC North title twice.
Despite recent hip and back problems, Flacco is still relatively healthy and can make all the throws from anywhere on the field.
There is one other thing: Flacco is tough and shows no signs of chucking-and-ducking behavior yet. That’s when a quarterback gets too old and fears getting hit. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has the chuck-and-duck syndrome, and so does the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson.
Flacco has been hit a lot but still believes he can win in the NFL. He doesn’t want his career to end the way last season did, when he was 4-5 as a starter before an injury forced him out and he lost the starting job to Jackson.
There are several teams that could use Flacco. The Jacksonville Jaguars might be a quarterback away from being a serious contender again, and Flacco could provide a serious spark in Denver with the Broncos. The Washington Redskins might be in the market for a new signal caller, but also keep an eye on the Carolina Panthers.
There is speculation that the Panthers might be willing to trade Cam Newton and offer him a fresh start. There are some who believe that Newton’s arm strength is no longer the same despite having shoulder surgery last month.
Regardless, there will be a taker for Flacco. He had his problems and faced legitimate criticism here in Baltimore. His mechanics were sloppy and his offseason work ethic could have been stronger.
This team often needed a fiery, compassionate leader, and it would have been nice if that came from the starting quarterback, but Flacco will be forgiven because that was never his personality.
But he still completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 38,245 yards and 212 touchdowns and finished with an 84.1 QB rating in 11 seasons. He won one Super Bowl and would have competed in at least one more if his teammates made plays in crunch time.
Ideally, the Ravens would like to cut or waive Flacco before June 1, which would save them $10.5 million on their 2019 salary cap. Wherever Flacco goes, he will have reasonable success. In Baltimore, the Ravens short-changed Flacco because they never got him a legitimate No. 1 receiver to throw to in his prime and the offensive line was always deficient.
But Flacco became the greatest quarterback in team history and at one time was among the top 10 at his position in the league. His talent has dropped off, but not to a point in which he can’t win in the right situation.
The Ravens went young and in a new direction with the offense, but Flacco can still play. Some team is going to find him as an attractive addition.