There’s been talk this offseason of the Ravens taking a quarterback in the early rounds. While the declining play of Joe Flacco makes that a tantalizing option, doing so may stunt the organization long term.
The Seahawks, Eagles and Rams all realized at one point or another that you need to take advantage of quarterbacks that perform well under their rookie contracts. The Seahawks brought in players such as Percy Harvin and Cliff Avril while Russell Wilson was on his rookie deal. The Eagles brought in Alshon Jeffery, LeGarrette Blount and Torrey Smith and the Rams have acquired Brandon Cooks and Ndamakung Suh this offseason. Those front offices nailed a window for success, although the Rams experiment is still up in the air. The Eagles and Seahawks sank resources into strengthening the supporting casts around their bargain quarterbacks.
If the Ravens draft a quarterback early this year, he likely wouldn’t play until late in the season at best. The earliest the Ravens can drop Flacco’s contract is 2019, and even then he’ll count for $16 million in dead cap money. Although that’s cheaper than his $26 million cap hit for that year, it’s still not ideal. If the Ravens bring a quarterback in this year, he’ll likely suffer from a lack of support in his second year, blurring the evaluation process as it gets closer to a second contract.
The Ravens should load up on talented players outside of the quarterback position and be patient in the meantime. Even if the Ravens hold off on drafting a quarterback until 2019, they’ll still be able to retain Flacco if they so choose while obtaining two or three solid years from a 2019 draft pick. From 2019 on, the Ravens will have the option to cut ties with Flacco while saving money on his contract either way.
With all that being said, if the Ravens do find a quarterback they absolutely love at 16, they should take him. Franchise quarterbacks are far and few, and if you truly believe you have one in your lap, it will be worth taking one in the long haul. Despite that, the Ravens do not need to press for a quarterback this year. Sometimes good coaching and a strong supporting staff can help elevate a quarterback, much like Sean McVay did in Los Angeles in 2017. The smart strategy remains to assemble a roster full of talent and pair it with a young, cheap quarterback that can succeed and grow. The Ravens put that plan into motion in 2019.