Joe Flacco’s future in Baltimore was cast in doubt this week after he was demoted in favor of rookie Lamar Jackson. Sunday brought even more ominous news, with a report that the Ravens are “expected to move on” from their longtime, Super Bowl-winning quarterback in the offseason.
Jackson took over from Flacco when the veteran suffered a hip injury in the midst of a 4-5 start that prompted questions about not only his job security, but also that of Ravens Coach John Harbaugh. Flacco was reportedly healthy enough to play this week but Harbaugh decided to stick with Jackson, who improved to 4-1 as a starter after beating the Buccaneers, 20-12, on Sunday.
“Look at Flacco’s future, he’s 33 years old, he’s set to make $18.5 million next year,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said, shortly before the Ravens took the field against Tampa Bay. “They [the Ravens] are expected to move on from him this offseason.”
Rapoport noted that by parting ways with Flacco, the Ravens would “incur $16 million of dead money” against their 2019 salary cap, but he also pointed out that “they’re not going to bring him back as a backup” at his level of pay. Flacco signed a contract extension in 2016 that will pay him $18.5 next season, $20.25 million in 2020 and $24.25 million in 2021, but Baltimore could save $10 million against the cap if he’s cut in a few months.
“If Flacco decides he wants to continue playing, he’s actually going to be a fairly coveted free agent this coming offseason,” Rapoport said. “Rarely do starting quarterbacks become available, and Joe Flacco absolutely is.”
The 33-year-old’s contract, featuring annual salaries that are very palatable for a starting quarterback in today’s NFL, could also make him an enticing trade target for teams who might see him as an upgrade at that position. Among those teams could be the Redskins if Alex Smith is struggling to return from a badly broken leg. But Smith will still account for a huge cap hit in 2019 and Washington could be thus more inclined to add a cheaper option than Flacco.
The NFL appears to be unusually flush with either established or up-and-coming quarterbacks, meaning that Flacco likely wouldn’t have a large trade market, but the Jaguars, who recently benched Blake Bortles, could be a possibility. So could the Giants if they decide to end the lengthy tenure of their own Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Eli Manning, or perhaps the Broncos or Dolphins.
Flacco had been the Ravens’ starter since they made him the 18th overall pick in the 2008 draft, missing just six games in that span before this season, all in 2015. But Sunday found him a healthy spectator for the first time in his 11-year career, and he acknowledged afterward that it felt very unusual.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a situation like this,” Flacco said (via the Baltimore Sun). “I just prepared as normal, and if anything bad happened, then I had to be ready to go for my teammates and for myself. So I was ready to go at any point.”
“Obviously, it’s disappointing to be in this situation just because you want to be out there with your guys,” he added. “But it is what it is.”
Over his 10-plus seasons, Flacco has posted an 84.1 passer rating, completing 61.7 percent of his throws for 38,245 yards, 212 touchdowns and 136 interceptions. A true pocket passer, Flacco has rushed for just 250 yards over the past five seasons, whereas with the exceptionally mobile Jackson leading a ground-based attack, the Ravens have undergone a radical midseason transformation on offense.
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