Is Joe’s job in jeopardy?
Although the Baltimore Ravens traded up to select former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson with the No. 32 overall pick in the NFL draft last week, they have maintained that veteran Joe Flacco will remain the starter in 2018.
“Joe Flacco is our quarterback,” said coach John Harbaugh. “That’s the thing we have to remember. Lamar’s going to have a great chance to develop.”
Flacco had one of the best postseasons in NFL history during the team’s 2012 Super Bowl run and then signed a six-year, $120 million blockbuster deal that made him the highest-paid player in the league.
Since then, however, the Ravens have made the playoffs only once, and Flacco’s mediocre performance and cap-crushing contract have received much of the blame.
In fairness to Flacco, Baltimore has had a subpar receiving corps for a while now. The Ravens made numerous moves this offseason to try to remedy that situation and get him better weapons.
The team signed three free agent wideouts — former Raider Michael Crabtree, former Cardinal John Brown and former Saint Willie Snead — and drafted South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst (first round), Oklahoma tight end/slot receiver Mark Andrews (third round), New Mexico State wide receiver Jaleel Scott (fourth round) and UCLA wide receiver Jordan Lasley (fifth round).
“We’re trying to win this year,” said general manager Ozzie Newsome. “And in order for us to win this year, we need Joe Flacco. That’s why we went and got the receivers, that’s why we got the tight end, to give Joe some help. We want to win this year.”
In spite of the Ravens’ statements, however, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora believes Flacco’s job is in immediate danger.
“Lamar Jackson is going to be on the field Week 1,” La Canfora declared on the “Tiki and Tierney” show. “Maybe it’s three plays, maybe it’s eight plays. He’s going to be on the field Week 5, and maybe it’s 10 plays and maybe it’s 15 plays, depending on how the offense goes. I don’t think they’re going to throw him into the deep end too soon, but they will create packages for him immediately.”
The 2018 season will be Flacco’s 11th in Baltimore, and LaCanfora said there was no chance Flacco would make it to 12 even if they hadn’t drafted Jackson.
“Flacco wasn’t going to be back in 2019 — even if they waited to the fifth round to draft a quarterback we had never heard of — but this absolutely cements it,” he said.
LaCanfora had very high praise for Jackson.
“This guy is an athletic freak,” he said. “He comes in immediately and he’s the best athlete on the team. I think he’d be the best athlete on several NFL teams.”
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley suggested the Ravens might use that athletic ability in different ways.
“The Ravens made it clear Joe Flacco is the starting quarterback this year, but team officials have been vague on whether Jackson will see any game action,” he wrote. “When Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was the playcaller in Philadelphia, he devised special packages for Michael Vick when he wasn’t the starter. There’s no question the Ravens view their first-rounder as a quarterback. The uncertainty is how much everyone sees of Jackson, who has been described as a ‘unique talent’ by team officials.”
Whether Jackson takes over in 2018 or Flacco holds him off with a strong season, the Ravens are very glad to have the former Heisman Trophy winner on their roster.
“He’s a quarterback through and through, and he’s a playmaker,” Harbaugh said of Jackson. “When you look at stats and you evaluate him, he does all the things that any quarterback does. But we do some analytics and when the ball is in his hands, there hadn’t been a better playmaker, really, in the last few years coming out [of the draft]. He’s a great quarterback.”
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