It’s Time to Step up or Step Aside!
Joe Flacco critics will claim that the Ravens franchise quarterback doesn’t play to the level of his healthy contract – that he doesn’t raise the play of those around him like the elite quarterbacks do. And in the end, that drains the salary cap and forces others around him to play above their pay grade.
Those who defend Flacco will say that he lacks the weapons that top quarterbacks take for granted; that he’s been saddled with a revolving door at offensive coordinator and that the West Coast Offense that he plays in, is hardly a match for his unique skill set.
Both the critics and the advocates are right.
And it’s time that the Ravens figure out if Flacco remains a long-term answer or is he just a year or two away from saying goodbye?
During his State of the Ravens press conference, Steve Bisciotti made it clear that the Ravens are determined to equip Flacco with the weapons he needs to succeed. He also said that the Ravens have bigger fish to fry than finding the heir apparent to Joe.
Joe hasn’t played consistently well since SB 47 but let’s face it, he needs playmakers. He needs a receiver who can make contested catches; one that can add yards after catch. He needs a tight end who can get vertical; one who creates mismatches through size and/or speed and can be a red zone threat. He needs a versatile running back who can get the tough yards and one who can make plays in the passing game.
It’s time that all such players are at his disposal so that the Ravens can determine who is right, the Joe Flacco critics or the advocates.
And the time is now!
Earlier this week, along with colleagues Brian McFarland and John Darcey, we developed a plan whereby the Ravens could conceivably retain Mike Wallace, Ryan Jensen and add wide receiver Jarvis Landry and tight end Jimmy Graham. The draft is chockful of enticing running back candidates and the one who has my attention is Jaylen Samuels out of NC State.
Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris along with Assistant Head Coach Greg Roman did an excellent job of getting top end production out of a patchwork offensive front. Unlike some of the other positional coaches on the team, D’Alessandris and Roman played to the strengths of the linemen healthy enough to dress on Sundays. The results were noteworthy. Football Outsiders ranked the unit 6th best in the league in run blocking and 4th best in pass protection.
Bringing back OC Marty Mornhinweg provides continuity and his return represents a Flacco preference. Adding the right weapons via free agency and the draft will give us all a true read on Joe. Can he be the guy to lift the team throughout the balance of his contract that runs through 2021?
If he isn’t, then who can the Ravens hand the reins of the offense to?
That answer is to be determined.
It’s unlikely that a John Harbaugh-influenced war room will call the name of a top-tier quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. It’s just hard to envision a need-to-win-now coaching staff investing heavy draft capital in a player who will carry a clipboard and wear a baseball cap on Sundays.
But the Ravens could make a play for a top-end developmental QB like Mike White out of Western Kentucky who played very well in this year’s Senior Bowl. He could be a third or fourth round pick depending on his performance at the Combines and his Pro Player Day.
2019 is ideally the time for the Ravens to make serious overtures about drafting a quarterback with the intent to make that player a future starter. For it is after the 2018 season when the Ravens can at least consider parting ways with Flacco if dictated by performance. In 2019, the Ravens can save $10.5M in cap space by saying goodbye to the Super Bowl 47 MVP. Should they wait another season, the Ravens could create $20.25M in cap room.
But if Flacco performs well in 2018 and they have a young backup like White in the fold, they should still consider a Day 1 or 2 quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft. Brett Favre was 35 when the Packers drafted Aaron Rodgers. By the time the 2019 draft rolls around, Joe Flacco will be 34.
Give Joe the weapons he needs now.
Clear the deck of excuses in order to make more informed choices moving forward.
And when making such choices, it’s nice to have a little leverage.
Leverage in the form of a promising quarterback waiting in the wings.