“We cannot become what we want to be by remaining who we are.” This quote from writer Max De Pree really sums up the big change on its way for the Baltimore Ravens. And on Thursday night, during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, they took a big step in becoming what they want to be offensively – a dangerous unit littered with playmakers that are capable of big plays from any spot on the field. After trading back twice in the first round, the Baltimore Ravens selected South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst with the 25th overall pick. He’s a big, athletic tight end that is a mismatch nightmare. But Ozzie Newsome and company weren’t done working the phones. With the Philadelphia Eagles on the clock to make the final selection of the night, Baltimore traded back into the first round to select Louisville former Heisman trophy winning quarterback Lamar Jackson. If I could use one word to describe him it would easily be ‘playmaker’. It was an exciting end to day one of the NFL draft, especially for the Baltimore Ravens and their fans.
The Ravens had their quarterback of the future and a new face of the franchise. But what about the current face? After catching fire in the 2012 postseason, throwing for 11 touchdowns versus zero interceptions, Joe Flacco led the Baltimore Ravens to their second Lombardi trophy in franchise history and won the Super Bowl MVP trophy. He signed a lucrative contract the following offseason to become the Baltimore Ravens franchise quarterback. But what the teams front office envisioned for Flacco in the years to follow never came to fruition. In the five seasons since, Flacco has averaged 3,629 yards, 20 TD and 15 INT with a QBR of 82.2. Last season, the Ravens finished ranked 29th in passing, and dead last in yards per pass attempt and yards per completion. The team has publicly stuck by and defended Flacco throughout it all. But now, with his heir apparent on the roster, is the writing on the wall? What will happen moving forward?
“Joe Flacco is our quarterback. That’s the thing we have to remember. Lamars going to have a great chance to develop.” said head coach John Harbaugh at the media presser following the first round. Flacco is gonna be the guy this year, and thats in large part due to the fact that he still has four years remaining on the six year, $125 million contract he signed in 2016. The earliest the Ravens can feasibly get out from under this contract, barring a trade, would be after the 2018 season. Releasing Flacco after the season would result in a $10.5 million cap savings, and $16 million in dead money. But if the team opted to wait and designate him a post June 1 cut, they would save an additional $8 million against the cap, jumping the number up to $18.5 million, and the $16 million in dead money would be split evenly over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, lowering that number to $8 million.
With that said, Joe Flacco will be the Ravens signal caller for this upcoming season. It would behoove all parties involved for Flacco to have a successful season. Around this time last year, the Kansas City Chiefs traded up 17 spots in the first round of the 2017 draft to the 10th pick overall, selecting former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes. With Alex Smith already on the roster, Mahomes was given the year to sit behind the 34 year old veteran Smith and learn. And what a year Smith ended up having, both making the Pro Bowl and leading the league in QBR. He threw for 4,042 yards, 26 TD and just 5 INT (all career highs). The Chiefs had to be ecstatic. They were able to cash in on Smith’s career year, trading him to the Washington Redskins for a 2018 third round pick and a young rising star in cornerback Kendall Fuller.
Might we see something similar occur in Baltimore with Flacco this season? I don’t expect that Flacco will have the kind of year that Smith had last year, but he certainly finally has the weapons in place to succeed. Ozzie Newsome completely revamped the receiving corps this offseason, signing free agent wide receivers Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead and accented those signings via the draft, selecting tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews along with wide receivers Jaleel Scott and Jordan Lasley. That being said, I don’t think 4000 yards, 25 TD and 10 INT is out of the question in a best case scenario. I would imagine a second or third round pick as potential compensation if he can have a season similar to that. It sure would be nice to essentially get the second round pick back that was used in the Lamar Jackson trade. And if not, if his struggles continue and it’s the same old Joe Flacco? Well, then we may see the Lamar Jackson Era kick off in Baltimore sooner than later. But, one must also consider two other possible scenarios: one where Lamar Jackson doesn’t look ready during or by the end of the 2018 season and the Ravens decide to keep Joe around beyond one more year, which is more of a possibility than its being given credit for, and another where Joe Flacco decides to retire after his time in Baltimore and spend more time with his five children. I still see a trade next offseason as the most likely outcome. For now, expect one more year with Joe Flacco as a Baltimore Raven.