Posted on February 13, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
A month before the new NFL year officially begins, the Denver Broncos have initiated the start of what should be an interesting quarterback carousel. The Broncos have agreed to a trade with the Baltimore Ravens for veteran quarterback Joe Flacco. The deal won’t become official until the new league year begins on March 13. Neither side can comment on any trades until then. However, reports indicate the Ravens will receive a 4th-round pick in exchange for Flacco.
The 34-year-old Flacco is leaving Baltimore after 11 seasons and one Super Bowl championship. He has been under center for the Ravens nearly every game since the 2008 season. However, a hip injury he suffered in Week 9 sidelined Flacco this past season. By the time he was healthy enough to return to the field, Lamar Jackson had taken the starting job away from him. With Jackson starting, the Ravens went 6-1 down the stretch, winning the AFC North.
The Ravens trading Flacco is confirmation that the team is ready to commit to Jackson as its long-term quarterback. Most expected Flacco to be traded to be traded at some point this offseason, although his ultimate destination was unclear. By trading him, the Ravens will have $16 million in dead cap space next season. However, they also opened up $10 million that they can spend on other needs.
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As for the Broncos, trading for Flacco will push Case Keenum out of the starting job. Keenum had an outstanding season with the Vikings in 2017, which helped him land a two-year, $36 million deal from the Broncos last offseason. However, Keenum couldn’t quite recreate the magic he had in Minnesota. He became too turnover-prone, throwing 15 interceptions to just 18 touchdowns. The Broncos also lost their final four games of the season despite making a strong push to get to 6-6 and put themselves in the wild-card race.
With Flacco coming to Denver, the Broncos are expected to cut Keenum. He has $18 million left on his contract, so trading him could prove difficult. However, cutting him will cost the Broncos $10 million in cap space. It’s also possible that the Broncos will try to restructure Flacco’s deal to free up some money. Flacco has three more years and $63 million left on his current deal.
Of course, whether Flacco is the right fit in Denver remains to be seen. Before suffering the hip injury and losing his job, Flacco posted solid numbers this past season. However, he didn’t look like the same quarterback he was a few years ago. His patented deep ball appeared to be less of a threat. At age 34, it’s worth questioning how many good years Flacco has left, so he may not be the long-term answer at quarterback the Broncos need, even if he’s an upgrade over Keenum in the short-term.
In the larger picture, Flacco is the first piece to move in the quarterback carousel. Meanwhile, the Broncos are the first team to address a perceived need at quarterback. The Dolphins, Jaguars, Giants, and Redskins are among the teams that may look to add a quarterback this offseason. The likes of Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill, and Blake Bortles are all quarterbacks who could also be on the move. In that sense, the Broncos made a smart move by going after the quarterback they wanted early in the offseason.
In the end, time will only tell if this move works out for the Broncos. Not long ago, they had some success by bringing an aging Peyton Manning to Denver and eventually winning a Super Bowl. They are certainly hoping to write a similar script with Flacco. As for the Ravens, they figure to be happy with this trade no matter what. Regardless of how Jackson pans out in the years to come, they’re going to give him a chance. Getting a 4th-round pick for an aging quarterback who’s not in their plans is a good deal. But for the Broncos, we’ll see.