“You will rarely see a more obvious example of a quarterback in decline than Flacco,” Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman tweeted. “And Elway just traded for him.”
Some pointed that, in recent years, Flacco’s statistics were barely distinguishable from those of Case Keenum, the quarterback Denver brought in last year and who has $7 million guaranteed on his $18 million salary for 2019, plus another $3 million from his prorated signing bonus counting against the books. “There’s no difference between Flacco and Keenum,” ESPN’s Damien Woody wondered, “so how does this make Denver better.”
One thing that the 6-foot-6 Flacco has over Keenum is height, and it was noted online that Elway seems to have a thing for unusually tall quarterbacks, having previously drafted Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, both 6-7. Of course, neither player lasted long with the Broncos, part of a dismal trend in which Elway followed up his 2012 signing of Peyton Manning, who helped the team to two Super Bowls and one championship, with a succession of underwhelming replacements, including Trevor Siemian.
Veteran Broncos reporter Mike Klis passed along word that the team looked into trading for the Eagles’ Nick Foles, the 2018 Super Bowl MVP, but decided that he wasn’t as good a fit as Flacco because the latter has more experience playing under center, which is set to be a major element of new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s scheme. Plus, Klis noted, Flacco’s 2019 salary of $18.5 million makes him a “better value” than Foles, who is expected to earn $25 million if Philadelphia places the franchise tag on him before a likely trade.
Many who responded to Klis’s tweet questioned the “value” in bringing aboard a quarterback they saw as demonstrably worse than the younger and more statistically efficient Foles. Meanwhile, football analyst Chris B. Brown expressed incredulity that, in a league trending far more in the direction of having quarterbacks in the shotgun, the Broncos would emphasize Flacco’s old-school edge.
Not all the online reaction to the trade was negative, of course, but even some who supported it seemed to struggle to find much of a bright side. Former Broncos offensive lineman Ryan Harris noted that Flacco’s contract has “no guaranteed money” left on it, meaning that Denver could “see what he has and release him before the season if he’s got nothing in the tank,” plus the addition of a former Super Bowl MVP “for nothing” meant “competition at the QB position.”
Albert Breer of The MMQB was among those who pointed out that the acquisition of Flacco hardly precluded the Broncos from taking a quarterback in the draft, even as early as with their No. 10 pick in the first round. “If a team drafting high loves one of the QBs available, the fact that they may have acquired a vet a few months earlier usually won’t deter them from doubling up,” he tweeted. “But it DOES lend the flexibility to pass on draft QBs. No price too high to get it right.”
If Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray should fall to the Broncos at the 10th spot, that could present an interesting test of Elway’s apparent preference in quarterbacks, given that the Heisman Trophy winner is listed at just 5-10. Meanwhile, the Broncos’ new coach, Vic Fangio, might not have been completely thrilled with the trade, to judge from recent comments in which the former Bears defensive coordinator said that a mistaken strategy he saw when he got to Chicago was “putting Band-Aids on every little problem, hoping they would be a good team the next year.”
“We can’t let that happen here. We can’t do everything to just get to 8-8 now and be 3-13 in 2021,” Fangio told Woody Paige of the Colorado Springs Gazette. “Does that mean that we won’t get a veteran in free agency that will help us for a year or two? We can do that. But we can’t go and throw a bunch of [stuff] against the wall and hope it sticks.”
The Broncos are expected to shop Keenum around the league and release him if they can’t find a trading partner. Klis reported that the 30-year-old quarterback has offset language in his deal, meaning that whatever another team pays him this season would be deducted from the amount Denver owes him.
“Big move by Elway,” Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders told Klis in a text message. “Veteran leader who has won the big game. We also have money to spend in free agency as well. Looking forward to seeing more pieces put into place.”
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