Your RSR Fortune Teller
It’s no secret that since the Super Bowl in 2012, Joe Flacco’s performance has been mediocre on many levels. There are several reasons Joe’s performance has been so up and down and, depending on if you’re a “hater” or an “apologist”, those reasons either lie solely at Joe’s feet or at the Ravens’ feet.
It doesn’t matter anymore though.
The offense needed a change and that’s what they did this off-season.
As soon as the Ravens traded back up into the bottom of round-1 in the 2018 draft to take Lamar Jackson, a talented quarterback from Lousiville, the media has been non-stop buzzing about the future of Joe Flacco.
Will the Ravens cut him in 2018? Will they cut him in 2019? Is he going to be benched in 2018 for Lamar? Will they trade him?
Those are all good questions and they’re worth exploring.
First thing’s first – Flacco will be a Raven in 2018 and will likely play the entire 2018 season as the starter. He has familiarity with the offense, the coaching staff, and most players on the team. He’s in a much better position to win than Lamar is, but it is clear Joe is on a short leash.
The most optimal outcome is Joe has a career season in 2018, the Ravens make the playoffs, go deep, and compete for a Super Bowl. The AFC is wide open right now and we all know that Joe is more than capable of playing at a high level in the brisk air of January. Though this seems fantasy-ish, there are two primary factors that will get Joe out of his multi-year funk and playing at a high level.
1. Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Alex Collins, Ken Dixon, and Buck Allen make up arguably the most talented group of skill players Flacco has had to work with since the 2012 season.
2. With Lamar Jackson in the fold, Flacco sees the writing on the wall and he will be auditioning for his next team. Considering quarterbacks are still making substantial dollars into their late-30’s, I can’t imagine Joe wouldn’t want to cash in one last time on a 2-3 year deal with a team looking to “win now”.
Obviously, the less-than-optimal scenario would be Joe continues to play at a mediocre pace, the offense is stagnant, and John Harbaugh decides to unleash their new quarterback with more moves than Michael Vick in Madden 2004. Though it would be exciting for the fans, it is the least desirable option simply because Jackson may not be ready.
In either situation, 2019 is where the most interesting decisions will be made.
According to RSR’s Brian McFarland, Joe has a $26.5 million cap hit in 2019 with $16 mill in dead money if they cut him. So, basically, if the Ravens cut him or trade him next off-season, they’ll clear around $10.5 mill off the cap, but they’ll eat that $16 mill for sure. Those numbers are easier to swallow if they do a “post-June 1st release”, but that means they must carry his 2019 salary until 1 June.
Would the Ravens keep Lamar Jackson on the bench for 2 years? Or, would they be willing to pay almost $55 million for Joe to carry a clipboard on the sideline and keep Joe through the 2019 season? That’s a tough question, but I can’t see Steve Bisciotti wanting to keep a potentially disgruntled player on the sideline making that money – Bisciotti is a businessman, after all.
That’s why the most likely scenario is the Ravens will seek a trade partner and, depending on how he plays in 2018, there could be teams interested in kicking Baltimore a few mid-round draft picks for the former Super Bowl MVP.
Why would a team trade for Joe? He’s expensive, he’s old, and he could have another “meh” season. Those are all true.
Well, the simple truth is there are not enough quality starting quarterbacks to go around in the NFL and a lot of coaches may look at Joe and believe he could bring some stability and keep them competitive for a few years while they groom or seek a younger option through the draft. In addition, the team that trades for Joe would be able to work out a deal with him before the trade is finalized, ensuring that he doesn’t have the option to let the free agency market set (and likely increase) his market rate.
This would be my ideal scenario next year, but I do think there is a higher probability of the Ravens cutting him and getting the dead money over with, while they still have a fair number of young guys on rookie deals.
Here are a few different teams that could be interested in Joe either via trade or as a free agent.
o New York Giants – Eli Manning will be 38 years old and he will have only 1 year left after this season on his current contract. Making this decision easier is that the Giants would save almost $17 million against the cap. Yes, they have two young developmental guys in Kyle Lauletta and Davis Webb, but if the Giants believe they can compete for a Super Bowl in 2019 and 2020, having Joe might be intriguing. Joe would do well under Pat Shurmur and Joe is from New Jersey, which would be a cool way to end his career.
o Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck‘s shoulder could be shot and I don’t believe for a second that the Colts are truly “all-in” on Jacoby Brissett. If Luck continues to hang out in the trainer’s room, I could see Indy making a play for Nick Foles. However, the Colts could save $15 million against the cap by cutting Andrew Luck in 2019. Jim Irsay is absolutely the type of owner that would try to stick it in Baltimore’s eye by signing Joe.
o New England Patriots – This one stings, but it would be a shrewd move by Bill Belichick who has watched Joe match and, sometimes outplay, Hall of Famer Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium. As long as the Patriots have Belichick, I think they’ll always be in a “win now” mode. We’ll see what Brady does after this season, but he’ll be 42 and there seems to be a growing rift between Brady and Belichick. The Patriots would gain around $15 million by cutting Brady, who may actually opt to retire.
o Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals can straight up cut Andy Dalton next year with no dead money hits. If Dalton continues to struggle, they may decide another option would be better rather than potentially overpaying for a quarterback that can’t win in the post season.
o New Orleans Saints – I’d be surprised if Drew Brees retired after this year, but you never know. He’s at the tail end of his career and the Saints have a good shot at going the distance this year. The Saints have only Tom Savage and Taysom Hill backing Brees up.
o Miami Dolphins – Adam Gase supposedly loves Ryan Tannehill, but between injuries and inconsistent play, Tannehill has never produced much on the field. The Dolphins have decent parts on offense, but they may be interested in a QB change in 2019. I don’t know if this is where Joe would want to go, but they could offer him a fair amount of money.
o Jacksonville Jaguars – I could see the Jaguars being a dark horse team for several quarterbacks in 2019 if Blake Bortles doesn’t play well this season. Bortles is basically on a 2-year deal with the Jags, but they could save $18 mill with a post-June 1st release. With that defense and the players on offense, Joe could do well in Jacksonville.