"We made the decision what was going to happen here weeks ago," said Joe Flacco when asked if he was frustrated in not getting an opportunity to play. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
With the NFL’s 2019-20 league year finally underway, Joe Flacco is officially off to Denver.
At 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Ravens and Broncos completed their February trade that swapped the longtime starting quarterback for a fourth-round pick (No. 113 overall) in April’s NFL draft.
The Ravens created $10.5 million in cap space and incurred $16 million in dead money by trading Flacco, who signed a then-record six-year, $120.6 million contract in 2013 after leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl XLVII victory.
Had the deal been designated as a post-June 1 trade, the Ravens would have incurred just $8 million in dead money and saved $18.5 million, but those savings wouldn’t have become available until well after free agency’s busy season concluded.
In a statement released after the trade was finalized, Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta called Flacco “the best quarterback in Ravens history.” Flacco started for 10-plus seasons in Baltimore and exits as the Ravens' all-time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns, interceptions, completions and attempts.
“Joe will be a Ring of Honor member soon after he retires,” coach John Harbaugh said in a separate statement. “The big arm, the consistency, the toughness — Joe had it all. What separated him was his calm demeanor in the storm. He handled the chaos that comes with playing quarterback and was at his best for us in the fourth quarter.”
With their commitment to Lamar Jackson, who helped lead the team to its first AFC North title since 2012 and whose rookie deal is far more team-friendly, it was no surprise that the Ravens would enter 2019 without Flacco, 34, on their roster. But it was unclear whether the Ravens would find a willing trade partner.
They did in Denver, which struggled with Case Keenum under center last season. The Broncos later dealt Keenum to the Washington Redskins in another trade that included a late-round draft pick swap.
In Flacco’s first tweet since the trade was struck, he thanked the Ravens, their fans and Baltimore “for an incredible 11 years. I’ll always be proud and grateful for my time spent as your quarterback. Though it’s time to move on, this team will always mean so much to me.”
Ravens officials also bid farewell Wednesday to linebackers C.J. Mosley and Terrell Suggs. Mosley signed a five-year deal with the New York Jets worth a reported $85 million, the richest contract ever for an inside linebacker. Suggs returned to Arizona, where he played in high school and college, after receiving a one-year, $7 million deal from the Cardinals.
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“We don’t like to see outstanding players we drafted in the first round leave the Ravens,” former general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “It’s difficult for us and the rest of the Ravens’ community. Joe and ‘Sizz’ are staples of this franchise, part of our foundation. And they will both be in our Ring of Honor one day. A lot of us have a Super Bowl ring because of what they did for us. We are grateful to them.”
Suggs leaves Baltimore after 16 seasons as the Ravens’ all-time leader in sacks, forced fumbles and games played. The 2011 Defensive Player of the Year and seven-time Pro Bowl selection has 132½ career sacks, most among active NFL players and tied for 13th most in NFL history.
Mosley’s 574 tackles in five seasons rank fifth in franchise history and are the NFL’s fifth most since 2014, when the team drafted him in the first round.
Mosley’s interception late in the fourth quarter of the Ravens’ Week 17 win over the Cleveland Browns secured the team’s first playoff appearance since 2014 and was the highlight of his fourth second-team All-Pro season.
“C.J. is as reliable of a player as any defender we’ve had,” Harbaugh said. “Plus, his leadership by example helped in other ways.”
Added DeCosta: “He has been the face of our defense for a few years. Like he did in our season finale against the Browns, C.J. made big plays at the right time. We all saw that he’s very smart, hard-nosed and talented. His quiet manner did not shield the leadership he gave us on and off the field. We’ll miss him, but many of us will always consider him a Raven.”