Ravens: Opportunity to draft a QB isn’t always there…
…so take the opportunity if it presents itself.
Joe Flacco is greatest quarterback in the history of the Ravens franchise. At the helm of the offense for 10 years going on 11. But that should not lead the Ravens brass to putting blinders on the position as they do their scouting and the NFL draft approaches.
Another reason they might turn a blind eye to the quarterback position is Flacco’s salary cap status. Flacco carries a hefty cap hit in 2018 that it locks him into being on the team. It would cost at best, $12.75M in dead cap space this year, and $16M in dead cap space next year if they cut him designate as post June 1st. His cap hit for 2018 is $24.75M. He is locked in for 2018, but again, not a reason not to not think seriously about addressing the position for the future. Think the Packers taking Aaron Rodgers in round one while still having Brett Favre entrenched. Think the Patriots taking Jimmy Garappolo in round two with Tom Brady clearly still in peak condition. If Flacco becomes elite, you can always trade your plan-B.
But if Flacco keeps trending downward in 2018, come 2019 the Ravens can get out of his contract for an $8M hit in 2019, and $8M more in 2020. The Ravens can escape Joe Flacco for a seemingly reasonable $8M dead money cap hit in 2020 while saving $20.25M in cap space. However, with two years left on his contract come 2020 and entering his age 35 season, do the Ravens offer him yet another extension to soften the $28.25M cap hit he would command without an extension?
Yet another reason the Ravens may ignore a serious look at quarterbacks is Owner, Steve Bisciotti. He noted in last weeks press conference that many quarterbacks are playing at a high level into their mid and late-30s. Flacco, 33, is thought of by ownership as being one of those guys. But age has not been so kind to Flacco. He suffered a torn ACL in 2015. An injury that while he was healthy enough for play in 2016, hindered his ability as you could tell the knee was on his mind. Quick to dump off passes, afraid to step into the pocket. Leading into the 2017 he suffered a back injury that sidelined him for the entire preseason. After the season it was released that Flacco had a herniated disk as the reason for the poor play in the first half of the season. Play that got better in the latter part of the season.
The Ravens did draft Keith Wenning in 2014. But that was in the 6th round and he never made it off the practice squad. 6th round doesn’t exactly sound like addressing a potential need. I realize that the Ravens drafted Tyrod Taylor in round six. Troy Smith in round five, Derek Anderson in round six. Guys that started games in this league. But not exactly guys you want to build a team around.
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If the Ravens are serious about having a back up plan, or a post-Joe Flacco era plan if that era were to come sooner rather than later, I’m thinking they need to look in rounds one and two. Looking back at the last 10 years of drafts, exceptions to that rule could be Kirk Cousins, Dak Prescott, as of a week ago Nick Foles. Tyrod Taylor and that might be stretching it. After round two you’re more likely to find someone who doesn’t even make the team, maybe you get a Tom Savage or Landry Jones type where they are capable of hanging around on the roster, but not who you want to carry a team into the future.
If a Kirk Cousins is the recent lotto ticket after round two, you might as well focus on the 1st and 2nd rounds where your odds of getting a Pro Bowl caliber QB are much higher. Those odds are even higher if you want to look just at 1st round talents.
The Ravens pick 16th overall. Looking at the draft board ahead of them, how many other teams are likely also looking for a quarterback?
Figure that Kirk Cousins’ landing spot will be key in which teams will then be going into the draft looking for a quarterback. I think today, the best case scenario for the Ravens would be if the Cardinals land Kirk Cousins. In that situation if the Ravens wanted to go quarterback in round one (not that they will) but they wouldn’t have to move up for one. If Arizona lands Cousins, then it’s a low probability of any QBs being taken between pick #7 and #16.
Best case scenario:
- Cleveland takes a QB.
- Giants new management gives Manning the year, but also gives a look at Davis Webb and passes on QB until next years class.
- Andrew Luck is okay.
- Kirk Cousins chooses Arizona and Denver allows Paxton Lynch to try to prove himself this year, passing on QB this time around.
- In that case, the New York Jets probably take a QB.
In summary, best case scenario, only two quarterbacks are off the board when the Ravens select at #16. Among the experts at ESPN and NFL.com, the top two QBs being Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield, in no particular order, would be the next two off the board. If the Ravens have their choice of Mayfield, Allen, or another player altogether, what do you do?
Worst case scenario:
- Cleveland takes a QB.
- Giants new management doesn’t care for Davis Webb and picks the guy they think should receive the baton from Eli Manning.
- If the other two teams likely to sign Kirk Cousins miss out, both select a QB.
What happens here are the guys with the best grades are all gone, and your next tier guys like Mason Rudolph, Lamar Jackson, and Kyle Lauletta with 2nd and 3rd round grades are up. Wouldn’t be good value spending a 1st round pick on them, so the Ravens would have to wait and hope that one of these guys are there in round two or three if you like them. But come round two, QB is in play for almost everyone. Indy could back up Luck even if he is showing signs of readiness for 2018. Miami taking a back up plan for Tannehill if he doesn’t come back strong. The sneaky Chargers sitting one spot behind the Ravens at #17, trade up ahead of you and look for the heir to 36-year-old Phillip Rivers.
As you can see the opportunity to draft a
quarterback difference making quarterback might not present itself this year. But if it does and you pass up the chance, then next year quarterback becomes in dire need and the opportunity isn’t there. That is a place where you really don’t want to be. You think no one comes to games now…wait until you’re stuck signing someone off the street that leads you to a record so bad, you might get a crack at the top college quarterback available. Or give a ridiculous amount of cap space to an unproven quarterback like Garappolo, or a game manger at best Alex Smith.
If a 1st round scenario between best and worst plays out, then the Ravens won’t have a choice in the QB. Just one of the top four will be left sitting there, either Mayfield or Allen, with the other three already taken (One of them, plus Darnold and Rosen). Do you pull the trigger on the quarterback, or on another player? Obviously you have to like the quarterback because first round quarterback busts are common too.
A lot can happen before the draft. A lot of eyes on the quarterbacks, a lot of tools for measuring them that haven’t been utilized yet. But if a quarterback is worthy of a #16 pick and they are sitting there at #16, you have to think about taking them. You can’t assume that Joe Flacco will play at a high level. You can’t assume he’ll still be here through 2021. You can’t assume anything.
What you might assume is that with Eric DeCosta becoming the GM in 2019, 2018 could be the last best chance for the John Harbaugh/Joe Flacco era to prove themselves. DeCosta taking over could make changes of his own. They have a lot to prove after missing the playoffs for three straight years, four out of five. They have a lot to prove after convincing ownership to keep Marty Mornhinwheg around because of their great working relationship. Despite poor performances. Also promoting Don Martindale to defensive coordinator. Steve Bisciotti often leaves the football decisions to the football people. But he may have to take matters into his own hands in 2019 if the upcoming 2018 season is as much of a disappointment as the previous three years have also been.
Already a new GM in 2019. A new coach, new staff, new quarterback could be in play too. No harm in DeCosta getting a head start on one of those positions in 2018 if the opportunity is there. Pushing hard for a QB he likes now, that he knows he can build around when he takes over. Who knows if the opportunity will be there when it is most convenient for the Ravens in 2019, 20′, 21′?. With all the question marks on the offense, the years of poor play on that side since Gary Kubiak in 2014, if the opportunity is there now, take it.
Have a real plan-B. The Eagles are glad they did.