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Joe Flacco’s contract isn’t holding the Ravens back

The Baltimore Ravens quarterback is often criticized for his large contract, but is the team worse off because of him?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens-Minicamp Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

There are many writers around the country who have criticized Joe Flacco and his gargantuan contract. The latest writer to voice his criticism of Flacco, Doug Farrar of Bleacher Report. Farrar titled his article “Dead Weight: Whose Salaries Are Holding Teams Back Most Heading into 2017?” Pretty harsh to say the least.

Here’s what Farrar had to say about Flacco’s contract:

Every writer is entitled to their own opinions. However, when voicing those opinions, they must include facts to back up their claims. In this particular case, Farrar didn’t take into consideration Flacco’s knee injury, his changes in coordinators in nearly every year since winning the Super Bowl in 2012 or the lack of draftees at the receiver position.

Glenn Clark of PressBox and Glenn Clark Radio had a few tweets explaining why he disagrees with the Farrar’s article. Clark noted that he felt like many pundits don’t fully take into consideration all of Flacco’s contract situation:

I tend to agree with Clark’s analysis of Flacco’s situation. Here’s why:

Offensive Coordinator Shuffle

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Flacco is a quarterback that is known for his arm strength. That arm strength was utilized in Cam Cameron and Jim Caldwell’s vertical offensive scheme. It was also used well in Gary Kubiak’s West Coast offense because of the ability to run the ball and work deep passes in off of the play action, which is one of Flacco’s strengths.

Things changed when Baltimore hired Marc Trestman. Trestman’s offense called for the Ravens to throw short passes to open up the deep passing game. It also called for Baltimore to discontinue their balanced rushing attack and strong play action game.

This short passing game continued under current offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg during the 2016 season. To be fair, Mornhinweg didn’t have a full offseason to customize his offense to Flacco’s strengths. It remains to be seen what will happen during the 2017 season with the Ravens passing game.

From 2008-14, Flacco’s yards per attempt averaged out to seven yards. Since Trestman became the offensive coordinator in 2015, Flacco’s yards per passing attempt has dropped to 6.6.

Some may cite the West Coast offense as Flacco’s downfall. That is just one piece of the puzzle. Kubiak allowed Flacco to flourish, as the Ravens quarterback threw 27 TDs and 10 INTs, his best TD:INT ratio in his career. When a team pays a quarterback that much money, their goal should be to put him in the best possible situation to win. Since Kubiak, Baltimore’s offensive coordinators haven’t really done that.

Lack of Weapons

Flacco had a pretty good receiving corps during the Super Bowl run. Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, Jacoby Jones and even Ray Rice were able to catch crucial passes during the 2012 season to take Baltimore to the Promised Land. Flacco had a strong rapport with each of these receivers and they fit his needs splendidly.

Since 2012, Baltimore has lost every single one of those players. Fast forward to 2015, Baltimore signed Steve Smith Sr. a year prior and they were able to make it into the postseason. Outside of Smith Sr., Baltimore went into the year without another proven weapon at the receiver position.

Pitta missed the entirety of the 2015 season and because of this, Flacco was down one of his most trusted targets. Before the season even began, Baltimore’s first-round pick Breshad Perriman went down with a knee injury. He wouldn’t play for the entire season. In Week 8, Smith would go down for the rest of the year with a torn Achilles tendon. This left Flacco with Kamar Aiken and a number of unproven receivers. Flacco would go down too in Week 11 against the Rams with a torn ACL and MCL.

Lost in this entire situation is that Baltimore has only drafted two receivers in the first two rounds since Flacco became the quarterback. Those two receivers are Torrey Smith and Perriman. For an offense that has constantly struggled, why would you not attempt to draft playmakers on that side of the football?

Injuries to the Offensive Line

In 2015 and 2016, Baltimore had to constantly shuffle their offensive line because of injuries. James Hurst played left tackle in place of Eugene Monroe (missed 10 games) in 2015. Center Jeremy Zuttah missed seven games in 2015. Particularly in 2016, the injuries just got worse for the offensive line.

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed four games, offensive lineman Alex Lewis missed six games, the ever-durable Yanda missed three games and Rick Wagner missed a game. Between four of their starting offensive linemen, 14 games were missed. For a quarterback coming off of an ACL and MCL tear, that isn’t very reassuring to have to work with a new group each week. It also doesn’t help that his starting left tackles have missed a combined 14 games.

Cap Space

According to Spotrac, Ravens quarterbacks account for 16.8% of the cap space in 2017, making $27.555 million. This means that 83.2% of Baltimore’s cap room is used on other positions.

Final Thoughts

Before the 2017 season has started, Flacco has had to deal with a back injury. Once he is able to progress, he should have the most talented receiving corps that he’s had to date. Adding Jeremy Maclin is a huge addition, especially considering that Maclin is just a year and a groin injury away from his last 1,000-yard season. Perriman has continued to improve during the offseason and Wallace is coming off of a 1,000-yard receiving season of his own.

Stanley, Lewis and Yanda are healthy. Terrance West is back for his third season in Baltimore, where he should see an increase in his carries. With one of the better supporting casts that he’s had, and a full offseason to work with Marty Mornhinweg, many expect Flacco to have a better season, health willing.

As for that whole situation of not being able to sign free agents, Baltimore has signed Wallace, Maclin, Tony Jefferson, Brandon Carr, Ben Watson, Austin Howard, Danny Woodhead, Eric Weddle, re-signed Brandon Williams and Lardarius Webb all within the past two years. Many of these players have made an impact recently on other teams and with the Ravens. Flacco’s contract hasn’t hurt Baltimore severely in that aspect, as much as some seem to point to.

Also, many people are prone to attaching wins and losses solely on the quarterback’s shoulders. It is an issue that has only gotten worse with the advent of fantasy football and new analytics stats. What those don’t take into account are all of the surrounding issues that a quarterback has to deal with.

Football is a team sport and almost even more so than other major American professional sports. Coaching schemes can make or break players. The players that surround very good players can affect their play. So before we crucify Flacco for his play over the past few seasons, let’s take all of this into account.