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Flacco’s Comfort Zone Must be Challenged

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Ravens Need a Viable Plan B at QB

As we enter the fifth week of the NFL season only one team remains unbeaten, the Kansas City Chiefs. A big reason for their success thus far in 2017 has been the surprising play of Alex Smith. Smith has never been a quarterback that puts up eye popping stats. Instead, he’s been at his best as an effective game manager supported by a strong defense and a top tier running game.

Smith, though, has elevated his game this season, having already thrown for over 1000 yards and 8 touchdowns, but more importantly zero interceptions. His decision making has been on point and he’s consistently put his team in a position to succeed.

The Chiefs are in an interesting spot. They spent their first round pick (10th overall) on Pat Mahomes, trading up seventeen spots to get him. Mahomes draft stock rose in the final weeks leading up to the draft. His athletic tools are off the chart but he wasn’t an ideal candidate to start in week one.

Photo Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire
Photo Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire

Most evaluators thought Mahomes had the potential to be a franchise guy but he was still viewed as somewhat raw. However, the investment of a first-round pick certainly means the Chiefs envision him being their franchise guy at some point, and soon. Alex Smith himself, admitted earlier this year that he didn’t expect to be a Chief in 2018.

So did Smith elevate his game this year because he heard the footsteps behind him?

Maybe, maybe not. But it seems awfully coincidental that Smith is having a career year with a little added pressure. The Ravens might be wise to take a similar approach.

This isn’t to say that the Ravens should give up on Joe Flacco, but is there any other quarterback who has consistently played so poorly the last two years without having to once be even slightly concerned about his job security?

Andy Dalton has had to look over his shoulder at AJ McCarron when he’s had rough stretches, Tony Romo lost his job to Dak Prescott while he was still playing at a high level, and Peyton Manning had to fend off Brock Osweiler the year he led the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Yes it’s true that Brock Osweiler is not a good quarterback but that’s beside the point. Even Pro Bowl quarterbacks haven’t felt as comfortable as Joe Flacco has in recent years and that’s because of the way his contract is structured.

But the Ravens do get some flexibility after the 2018 season with their “franchise QB”. The Ravens could save $10.5 million against the cap after next season and a little over $20 million the following year by parting ways with Flacco.

It’s in the Ravens best interest that the Super Bowl 47 MVP finds a way to return to the level of play that he achieved in 2012 and later under the tutelage of Gary Kubiak in 2014. But what if he doesn’t?

The Ravens will have a substantial list of needs going into next year’s draft but taking a quarterback in the second or third round won’t prohibit them from addressing other areas. We won’t know if Tyus Bowser will evolve into a difference maker but the Ravens wouldn’t be a worse team if neither Kamalei Correa (2016, second round) nor Maxx Williams (2015, second round) were missing from the team’s roster.

The second round of the draft hasn’t been kind to Ozzie Newsome in recent years, so taking a shot on a quarterback who has legitimate potential won’t set the organization back significantly. Derek Carr was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft. He’s been one of the biggest reasons the Raiders have returned to relevance after years of insignificance. The Packers had Brett Favre and they drafted Aaron Rodgers. The Patriots have Tom Brady and they drafted Jimmy Garoppolo. There’s been chatter of the Ravens finding Flacco’s eventual successor soon anyway. Taking him in next year’s draft wouldn’t be a huge stretch.

And again, there’s also the comfort factor. Maybe Flacco needs to be pushed to get the most out of him. He was motivated in 2012 because it was a contract year and that seemed to work out. Gary Kubiak managed to get the most out of him in 2014 as well. But if Harbaugh can’t find another Kubiak, which it appears he can’t, maybe this is the best way to light a spark under the Joe Flacco.

The Ravens have never made their 10-year signal caller feel uncomfortable. He’s never had to look over his shoulder and and wonder if he might get the hook. The Ravens, for the first time, might have some leverage when it comes to his contract after next season and if they take a quarterback early in next year’s draft maybe it will be the motivation Flacco needs to elevate his game.

What have they got to lose?

Another wasted second-round pick?

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