Since 2008, Joe Flacco has been the franchise quarterback for the Ravens, winning a Super Bowl during the 2012 season after which he secured himself a then NFL league high contract. Then, at the end of the first round of the 2018 draft the Philadelphia Eagles traded the No.32 pick to Baltimore allowing the Ravens to come up and select Lamar Jackson, the quarterback from Louisville. Does this spell the end for Flacco in Baltimore?
Aside from his run to the Super Bowl, Flacco has never really been regarded as an elite quarterback. If you were to compile a top ten right now, he wouldn’t be in it. He’d probably struggle to make the top 15.
His stats don’t make for great reading. He’s only once passed for over four thousand yards in a season (2016). He averages 20 TDs a season (with a high of 27 in 2014) and 13 intercepts (a high of 22 in 2013). He’s known for having a cannon of an arm but has suffered a few seasons of injuries and now at 33, when he should really be in the prime of his career there are increasing question marks about his ability to lead the Ravens to a successful season.
He’s not been helped by the front offices team building around him. Ozzie Newsome will likely go into the Hall of Fame as a GM, but of late, his draft picks haven’t been amazing. Not since Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith in 2012 has Flacco had any quality depth at wide receiver to pass to. The 2017 wide receiver team was Breshard Perriman, Chris Moore, Quincy Adeboyejo and Tim White. There’s also a distinct lack of quality at running back and tight end. When you look back at it, it’s quite impressive that the Ravens were close to getting into the playoffs.
Now what of Jackson? Well he’s a former Heisman winning quarterback who has drawn comparisons to Michael Vick. Those drawing comparisons include Michael Vick himself who has been a very vocal supporter of Jackson. There’s been doubts about his ability to play quarterback at the NFL level with many calling for him to test at wide receiver as well, a call which largely went ignored by Jackson in the run up to the draft. There’s no doubt about his athleticism and ability to get out of the pocket and beat defenders with his legs. Where concerns do lie, is in his ability to throw the ball into tight windows – a skill he’ll need to finesse to be successful at the NFL level. He has a strong arm but his throwing motion does cause the ball to sail in the air, making it easier to intercept. To improve this, he’ll need to adapt his mechanics and drive the ball more with his legs, rather than flicking it with his wrist. This will improve his accuracy in general and make him a better prospect.
There’s no doubt that, by choosing Jackson, the Ravens are planning for a future beyond Flacco. Flacco’s contract has a get out in 2020 which would give the Ravens two full years with which to work out if Jackson is worthy of the starting place and a further three years to prove himself before he’s due to receive a new contract, due to them having the fifth-year option from Jackson being selected in the first round.
The question is, will it happen this year? I think not. There’s been a lot of positive press about Jackson’s performances in mini camps but he’s young and he has a lot of skills to finesse. Aside from Flacco getting injured, which is a real possibility, Jackson will sit and learn the trade before getting the starting job. There’s a good chance he’ll get a few reps on games that are won or lost before the 4th quarter but realistically, it’s a year of learning.