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What to make of the Broncos’ trade for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco

Denver is looking for an upgrade at quarterback and Flacco might not be it.

Baltimore Ravens v Denver Broncos Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Around ten years ago, Joe Flacco was one of the most intriguing quarterbacks in the NFL. Coming off a season for which he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year, the former 18th overall draft pick started to develop a reputation as a bit of a clutch player — not always fully deservedly, though. Nevertheless, Flacco helped the Baltimore Ravens to five straight playoff births and a victory in Super Bowl 47.

Along the way, he also led the team to two upset victories on the road against the New England Patriots and had one of the statistically best postseason runs ever in 2012 — the same year he was named the Super Bowl’s most valuable player. Afterwards, he became the highest-paid quarterback in the history of the league when he signed a six-year contract with the Ravens worth a total of $120.6 million.

Since then, however, things took a turn for the worse. Over the five seasons following the record-breaking deal and Super Bowl victory, Baltimore appeared in only two playoff games as Flacco failed to live up to his hefty price tag: he remained an inconsistent quarterback, averaging only 19.6 touchdowns but 14.8 interceptions per season while posting a combined passer rating of a mere 82.1.

Then came 2018. Flacco started the year in solid but uninspiring fashion before a hip injury led the way to first-year quarterback Lamar Jackson taking over. The rookie led Baltimore to the playoffs and the writing was on the wall for the Flacco era to officially come to an end. Yesterday, it happened: according to multiple media reports, the Denver Broncos will acquire the 34-year old in a trade once the new league year starts on March 13.

From the Ravens’ perspective, moving on from Flacco results in $16 million dead cap hit but also savings of $10.5 million. Meanwhile, the Broncos take on a contract without any dead money attached to it but still a salary cap hit of $18.5 million in 2019 — one that grows to $20.3 and $24.3 over the next two years. Safe to say that Flacco’s primary role will be holding down the fort until a younger quarterback takes over.

So basically, he will do what Case Keenum was supposed to do. Keenum, of course, was signed to a two-year, $36 million contract last offseason but did not turn out to be the solution to the Broncos’ quarterback problems of the post-Peyton Manning era. However, it is questionable that Flacco — only a marginally cheaper option — will actually be an upgrade over the soon-to-be 31-year old.

HOOP Magazine’s Josh Eberley compared the two players’ stats from the last few seasons and the similarities are noteworthy:

Over the last three seasons:

Joe Flacco (41 starts)
50 TDs, 34 INTs, 63.8 CMP%, 82.6 QB rate, 242 yards a game.

Case Keenum (41 starts)
49 TDs, 33 INTs, 63.8% CMP%, 86 QB rate, 235.1 yards a game.

Basically, the Broncos have acquired a slightly older and slightly cheaper version of Case Keenum. But the team still needs to see something in Flacco in order to bring him in over a quarterback that will reportedly now a) take a massive pay cut, b) be traded, or c) be released. Do they believe he can recreate some of that early 2010s magic? Do they view him as a better locker room presence with a young player projected to come in either this year or next?

Whatever the motive behind the move made by Denver and its general manager John Elway, it answers two questions: Lamar Jackson will be the undisputed starter in Baltimore for the time being, while the Broncos pull the plug on the Case Keenum experiment. It will be interesting to see which decision turns out to be the better one, especially considering the financial aspect behind the transaction.

What also is certain is that the Patriots will not face Joe Flacco during the 2019 regular season. The world champs will play Jackson and the Ravens, but not Flacco and the Broncos — at least until the postseason.