Even though Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco has another year remaining on his rookie contract, both he and the team want to tear up that final year and work out a new agreement to keep him in Baltimore for a long time. At the same time, RB Ray Rice would become a free agent unless the team either re-signs him to a new contract or places the Franchise Tag on him.
Luckily, the Ravens absolutely has the ability to retain both players and even team owner Steve Bisciotti "guaranteed" that both will continue to be in Baltimore next season. But what if they couldn't keep both and the team had choose one or the other? Who would you pick?
Joe Flacco has led the Ravens to the playoffs in all four of his NFL seasons, winning more games (including playoffs) than any other QB in NFL history. Ray Rice led the entire league in combined rushing and receiving yards and is considered one of the top running backs in the NFL. Which one is more important to the future of the Baltimore Ravens?
This would be a tough decision under any circumstances, but with the Ravens arguably one play away from making the Super Bowl in 2012, which of the two would be necessary to stick with the team to help it take that next step? Could the Ravens bring in a free agent veteran or a highly sought after draft pick and pick up the slack for the loss of their all-time leader in virtually every team passing category?
Could the Ravens find another quality running back in free agency to put up anywhere close to the stats that Rice has done in his career? The elusive and dangerous runner is a threat running and receiving and there are very few others out there anywhere close to his array of skills.
Looking at the 2012 NFL Draft, there is no realistic chance the Ravens could figure out a way to trade up for Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, and no other QB in the draft appears to be the guy to lead the team to the Super Bowl in his rookie or even sophomore year. That leads the only option of replacing Flacco to be picking up a veteran free agent from the pool of available players.
Possibilities will include Matt Flynn, Peyton Manning, Jason Campbell, Kyle Orton and perhaps a few others. Are any of these, other than a healthy Peyton Manning, the type to rise up and lead this team to the Promised Land? Doubtful.
If the Ravens choose to let Ray Rice walk, where does his replacement come from? Certainly, it's not unheard of for a rookie RB to be part of a championship team, but what is available in the NFL Draft that could fill that void? As far as free agency, which would be the obvious immediate best option, there are a few guys like Matt Tolbert, Matt Forte, Cedric Benson, Michael Bush and a few others.
For argument's sake, there is no reason to think that impending free agents Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch will either be franchised themselves or cost at in the same ballpark as Rice, which is the reason he would be released in the first place. Could the others step in and fill those little yet so huge cleats? Doubtful.
Thankfully, the Ravens will not have to be put in the position of having to choose one or the other. But if they had to, which one would you, if backed into a corner and having to make the decision for them, end up keeping and which one would you have to show the door to?