As Joe Flacco enters his 10th season in Baltimore, he does so with the issues that accommodate age. After tearing his ACL in 2015, Flacco has not played a snap in the preseason following a back injury. We’ve seen how age impacts players and their durability, and nobody is immune. It’s fair to ask the question if Flacco can’t stay healthy this year or plays poorly again, is it time to move on?
Unfortunately for the Ravens, regardless of what happens with Flacco in 2017, they won’t be in control of what they can do with him. Flacco’s dead money will still be $16 million in 2019, before dropping down to a more reasonable $8 million in 2020. $8 million is still a lot of money for a player that wouldn't be on the roster. Joe Flacco isn't a player the Ravens can easily part ways with.
The NFL moves fast. Teams often ask, what have you done for me lately? If we ask Joe Flacco that from the perspective of a starting quarterback, what has he done for the Ravens as of late? The team is two-and-a-half years removed from its last playoff appearance and four-and-a half removed from a legitimate playoff run. The league’s best quarterbacks don’t hinder their team’s chances to contend as Flacco has. His 80-61 TD/INT ratio since 2013 doesn't measure against the franchise quarterbacks in the NFL’s top tier. In that same timespan Andrew Luck has a 109-50 ratio, Aaron Rodgers is 126-26, Russell Wilson is 101-35. All three quarterbacks have led their teams to the type of success that Flacco should be leading the Ravens to. The only exception is Luck who has suffered through injuries the last two years.
With all of this in mind, if Flacco suffers through an injury plagued year or continues the inconsistent performances, should the Ravens seriously consider a quarterback in the 2018 draft? For me, I think that’s a relatively easy yes. At the end of the 2017 season, the Ravens will be five calendar years removed from the Super Bowl appearance that has extended Flacco’s leash this far. With the 2018 draft projected to be one of the deepest QB drafts in recent history, the opportunity to select a player of the caliber that Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph and Josh Rosen project to be isn't one you want to pass up. Why wait until Flacco completely bottoms out?
The Ravens defense looks to be one of the best in the league, with young talented players such as Tony Jefferson, Matt Judon, Michael Pierce, C.J. Mosley and Marlon Humphrey along with veteran talents like Brandon Williams, Jimmy Smith and Eric Weddle. If Flacco can't turn things around in 2017, it may be time to get a rookie who is trending up as opposed to rolling out a veteran that’s on the way down.
Flacco’s contract is one that will be hard to move in any capacity, but worst case scenario, the Ravens would have a rookie under a manageable contract until they can rid themselves of Flacco’s.
It’s never easy to move on from a player that provided fond memories, one of them being a Super Bowl run. But most of the time, it’s in the best interest of the team. For Flacco and the Ravens, 2017 will be a season where both will enter the crossroads that determine the fate of the team for years to come.