While far too many fans in Baltimore are spending their watercooler time engaging in verbal fisticuffs with one another trying to justify who should be the starting QB for the Ravens moving forward (as of this writing, it’s Lamar Jackson for the foreseeable future), I think I’ve found a common ground that we can all agree on:
Joe Flacco will not be a Raven in 2019.
Sure, he’s contractually bound to Baltimore, but all signs around town are pointing towards an inevitable changing of the guard at quarterback in 2019 (one that’s actually already taken place), and a likely trade of Joe Flacco following the 2018 season.
Before you come at me with the “Flacco has no trade value!” argument, let me stop you in your tracks and point out three things that create trade value for Joe: incoming rookies, the free agent market, and surprisingly? Joe’s contract.
As of this writing, the incoming QB crop in the NFL draft is looking barren, with the top QB prospect in Justin Herbert potentially going back to Oregon, and no other QB being worthy of a first-round pick. You can argue Dwayne Haskins or Will Grier (don’t you DARE argue Kyler Murray), but they’re more likely to hit Round 1 by demand (plenty of teams needing a QB) vs legitimate talent worthy of the pick. In contrast, the 2020 crop of QBs is slated to be phenomenal (better than this year’s rookie class) and teams will be in need of a stop-gap.
Everybody sees a $28M+ cap hit for Joe Flacco in the coming years, but numbers can be deceiving. Check this out from RSR resident cap guru, Brian McFarland:
Flacco has no more g'teed money on his deal, so a new team would only pick up his remaining base salaries of $18.5M/$20.25M/$24.25M. If cut by that team at some point, there would be no dead $$.
A trade would mean $16M in dead $$ for Ravens, but would create $10.5M in Cap space https://t.co/HWmiHQopYl
— Brian McFarland (@RavensSalaryCap) December 5, 2018
Essentially a team could trade for Flacco as a stopgap for 1-2 years, and it’s relatively inexpensive for them. $18.5M next year would make Joe the 23rd-highest paid QB, just behind Jimmy Garappolo ($19.35M) and ahead of Andy Dalton ($16.2M).
In short, there’s no starting quarterbacks in the draft, no starting quarterbacks in the free agent pool, a trade drops Joe’s cap hit drastically, and whether or not you ‘like’ Flacco, he would instantly become the best available QB out there should the Ravens dangle the trade bait.
“Hey dummy! Flacco isn’t even worth a 7th! He’s a bum!”
Nice rebuttal, Karen (I assume your name is Karen). Now take a look at the last four notable quarterbacks to be traded in the NFL:
- 2018: The New York Jets traded Teddy Bridgewater and a 6th-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for a 3rd-round pick. Bridgewater hasn’t started a game in 2+ years.
- 2018: The Kansas City Chiefs traded Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins for a 3rd-round pick and CB Kendall Fuller.
- 2017: The New England Patriots traded Jimmy Garappolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2nd-round pick. Garappolo had played well in relief of Tom Brady in limited games, but never as a proven starter.
- 2016: The Philadelphia Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings for a 1st-round pick in 2017, and a conditional 4th-round pick in 2018. Bradford, by all accounts, is garbage.
There’s four trades in a three-year stretch. Two veterans. Two unproven guys. All having decent value, ranging from a 1st-round pick, down to 3rd and a starting CB.
At this point, if you’re still not convinced that Joe has legitimate trade value, I think you’ve been drinking too much Haterade and need to ease off Flacco a bit. Remember: the faults of this offense for years are bigger than the QB, and he deserves more respect than many fans are giving him these days…
So where will Flacco land?
I’ve seen five landing spots being mentioned on the Twitterverse and beyond. Here’s a quick feasibility study on each:
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2019 Cap Space: $19.6M
At first glance, you see the Bucs’ total cap space ($19.6M) is just about equal to Flacco’s cap hit in 2019 ($18.5M), but when you add in the fact that they’d cut Jameis Winston and clear an additional $20.9M? Suddenly there’s ample room to make this happen.
The biggest downfall of the Bucs offense has clearly been consistency at QB, with both Winston and FitMagic being wildly inconsistent week to week this season. I know, I know… Flacco isn’t the image of consistency for you and I. But ultimately, he offers a sure-fire upgrade for the Bucs at QB. Once acquired, they’d have the freedom to see how Flacco fares for one year with actual superstar weapons on offense in Mike Evans and O.J. Howard – something Joe hasn’t had since Ray Rice – and if it doesn’t pan out? They can cut him free and clear. If it does? Two more years of reasonable QB cap hit with zero guaranteed dollars tied to him.
Team: Miami Dolphins
2019 Cap Space: $21.7M
I can’t imagine this Fins team still thinking Ryan Tannehill is the answer. The kid shows flashes, but ultimately he can’t stay healthy enough to justify his paycheck right now. Cutting Tannehill opens up another $13M & change (new total cap space ~$35M) and also opens up a need at QB. The Fins (7-6) have been middle-of-the-pack this year, and that’s been with Brock Osweiler under center for six games. Should the Fins look to make a QB change, Joe Flacco gives them, relatively speaking, the same QB level of play as Tannehill, but offering more durability, and saving them from having to trot Osweiler out there and going 2-4 over their last six.
I know Joe is coming off the hip injury, but he’s only missed 10 total games in his 9+ year career (he’s started 95.3% of possible games in his career) versus Tannehill, who has missed 21 of a possible 48 games in the past three seasons. That’s worth enough for a call from Miami.
Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
2019 Cap Space: -$7M
The Jags took an… interesting approach to free agency and the draft in 2018, having opted to steer clear of big deals for A-Rob and Allen Hurns, and relying on lesser targets on offense like Keelan Cole (bad) and Marquise Lee (hurt), while continuing to lean on Blake Bortles (awful) under center, and a Leonard Fournette (hurt)-led run game. That uh… it backfired. Big time. And what’s worse for the Jags is that they are royally screwed in 2019 in terms of cap space, currently sitting $7M over the estimated $190M (per OTC).
As for Flacco, there’s simply no way this happens. In order to clear enough cap space to add Joe Flacco to the roster, the Jags would likely need to cut three of their better defenders that provide the most cap relief- say A.J. Bouye ($9.5M savings), Calais Campbell ($9.5M), and Tashaun Gipson ($7.5M)- and that’s not even taking the cap space for the draft into account. So yea. Snowball’s chance in hell.
Team: Denver Broncos
2019 Estimated Cap Space: $50M
John Elway may have been a great quarterback (and a major a-hole) but the dude surely sucks when it comes to evaluating talent at the position. He’s failed to pick a viable starting QB in the draft numerous times, and his latest attempt in free agency – picking up Case Keenum on a two-year deal – has so far backfired to the tune of 5-6 on the season.
Adding Flacco to the roster in 2019 would improve their offense to go with a solid defense, but in doing so, they’d have to cut ties with Keenum, and eat $10M in dead money. Is the delta from Keenum to Flacco worth the trade for Denver?
I’m not sold on that tradeoff, but I think they’d humor the trade if the value was right. Also, don’t forget that Gary Kubiak works in the Broncos front office, and has suggested he’d consider going back to an OC position in 2019. If Vance Joseph gets fired, and Kubiak is OC in Denver under a new head coach? Flacco’s rapport with his former OC may make this move more logical.
Team: Oakland Raiders
2019 Cap Space: $82.4M
This team really intrigues me as an option for Flacco. For starters, we’ve seen them make a handful of confusing moves thus far – they traded away the best pass rusher in the NFL, Khalil Mack, for a 1st-round pick, then they traded away their best wideout for a first. Tanking may be the strategy here, and if so, they’ll be replacing Mack with a top-3 pick and likely a top tier pass rusher in a defensively front-heavy draft.
But one of the biggest issues in Oakland has been the QB play of Derek Carr. He’s just… well, he’s not good. He had a ‘flash in the pan’ season a few back, and that was it. There’s been some discussion of whether John Gruden really likes Carr as his QB, and if he doesn’t? The team will move on from Carr (saves $8M).
Wait a minute… yanno what quarterback Chucky has gushed about during his broadcast days? JOE. FLACCO. And honestly, with over $80M in cap space, Oakland wouldn’t need to rework his deal or extend him to fit him under the cap at all. They could simply take a one- or two-year flyer on Joe to see if he’ll pan out for them.
Where does Flacco land in 2019, and what can the Ravens expect in return?
The above teams – Broncos, Bucs, Dolphins, Raiders – will all be poking Eric DeCosta to see if they can strike a deal, and I wouldn’t be shocked if a mystery team jumps in the mix (Giants?). Ultimately, I believe the Bucs make the best offer and acquire Flacco from the Ravens.
As for trade value, I think the Alex Smith trade – being both the most recent and the most comparable in terms of stats- is a good litmus for Flacco. In 2017, Smith threw for 4,042 yards, 26 TD and 5 INT. Prior to the hip injury, Flacco projected out to a 4,382-yard, 23-touchdown, 10-INT season.
Not terribly far off, right? Now take both players’ career stats, and run a 16-game simulated stat line, based on averages:
Joe Flacco (163 games): 3,754 yards, 20.8 TDs, 13.3 INTs
Alex Smith (166 games): 3,284 yards, 18.6 TDs, 9.7 INTs
Tell me that’s not the perfect comp…
As a reminder, Smith was traded for a 3rd round pick, and a starting CB in Kendall Fuller.
Back to trade value, I think you could see Flacco go for a 3rd in 2019, but if I’m the Ravens? I would consider pushing for a 2nd in 2020. You bump the pick up a round by pushing it down the road another year (great for the Bucs, who need their high picks to contribute if they want to compete), and quite frankly, the Ravens will likely be planning a rebuild anyway, so the need for a 2019 3rd isn’t vital to their success in the long term (also, the 2020 draft is loaded with talent and the pick will have a higher value to Baltimore).
Everybody wins, and Flacco doesn’t face Baltimore for another four years.
Assuming he’s still around.
What does everybody else think? What could the Ravens expect to get for Joe? Take off your Hater Goggles and answer honestly, based on the info I provided.