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With Joe Flacco out of the picture, all eyes are on Lamar Jackson

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For the first time in over a decade, a new era of Ravens football is upon us.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knew it was coming at some point, but when news broke yesterday that the Ravens had agreed to trade Joe Flacco to the Denver Broncos, it still caught many, including myself, by surprise. Nobody envisioned Eric DeCosta moving this quickly to strike a deal to move Flacco, but that’s exactly what happened.

The trade won’t officially be processed until next month, but Flacco’s time in Baltimore has been up since Week 11 of the 2018 season. Nevertheless, it feels a bit surreal that for the first time in his career, Flacco will be wearing a different uniform next season.

It was weird seeing Flacco on the sidelines over the second half of this past season as Lamar Jackson’s backup, but it will be even more strange seeing him throw passes for a new organization. Flacco departs from Baltimore the same way he came in; with class and professionalism.

And so, after 11 seasons, six playoff appearances, a Super Bowl MVP trophy and one of the most successful postseason runs from a quarterback in NFL history - here we are at the end of the road.

Make no mistake about it, the Ravens are Lamar Jackson’s team now. Everything that happens in the next few seasons and potentially beyond is tied to Jackson and his development as a quarterback. This sounds like a lot of pressure for a 21-year old kid to handle but if anyone is up to the challenge, it’s Lamar.

When Baltimore traded up to select Jackson at the end of the first round in last years’ draft, there was an obvious sense that he would eventually take over as the starting quarterback. However, given his limitations as a passer and raw talent, many envisioned Flacco remaining the starter for two full seasons before ceding way to Jackson.

If Flacco doesn’t suffer a hip injury midseason, which allowed Jackson to seize the opportunity as a starter, does Flacco play out the rest of the season? Maybe so, and it’s possible he could have played well enough to stick around heading into next year.

However, we can play the “if this, if that” game all day long. The process of Jackson becoming the starting quarterback ended up moving way faster than most people envisioned. Now, he’s not only the starting quarterback, but the face of the Ravens franchise and unquestioned leader.

By all accounts, Jackson appears up to the challenge. A poor postseason performance and disappointing ending can’t take away from what he accomplished in year one. Being thrust into a starting role in the middle of the season, tasked with leading your team to the playoffs and potentially saving your coach’s job is not an easy feat for any quarterback, let alone a 21-year old rookie.

But that’s exactly what Jackson did, going 6-1 down the stretch to lead Baltimore to a division title for the first time since 2012. Does he all deserve all the credit? Of course not. The defense was stellar over the second half of the season and the coaching staff managed to adjust to a schematic change on offense on the fly.

Still, what Jackson did is a noteworthy and is hopefully a sign of things to come. His needed development as a passer is well-documented, but Jackson has an incredible work ethic, intangibles, and other winning qualities that can’t be taught. Jackson has a rare desire to be great that many young players lack.

Amidst boos from the home crowd in a dismal showing through three quarters against the Chargers in the playoffs, Jackson responded by throwing for over 150 yards and two touchdowns in the final frame of play, nearly leading the Ravens to a miraculous comeback.

Given the Ravens have hitched their wagon to him as the franchise quarterback going forward, there is some pressure for Jackson to not only improve, but to consistently perform and win games. The standard in Baltimore is success, but Jackson doesn't appear to ever shy away from the moment.

Flacco deserves praise for bringing a super bowl to Baltimore and easily becoming the most successful quarterback in franchise history. However, in order for the Ravens to progress moving forward, we must all, as a fanbase, embrace the new era that is upon us.

It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to say this, but the Baltimore Ravens now have a new face leading them into a new era - and his name is “Action Jackson”.