Joe Flacco has to wait until the new league year starts in March, but when it does he’s set to be traded to the Denver Broncos.
It’s a pretty good situation for Flacco, who will keep the contract extension he signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2016. He’s due to collect $18.5 million in base salary for the 2019 season and even more in 2020 and 2021. Flacco will also join a team that has defensive talent like Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Under new head coach Vic Fangio, Denver can lean on its defense and ask Flacco to be a game manager.
The decision is odd for the Broncos, though. The team will presumably move on from Case Keenum now and likely eat $10 million in dead space to do it. And for what? A player who has been awful for years now.
But there are more than just two teams affected by the trade. Here are 11 franchises in a different situation now that Flacco is headed to Denver:
Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first.
The Broncos have their bridge quarterback and will likely target a passer in the 2019 NFL Draft to groom behind Flacco. Either a quarterback at No. 10 overall, or a mid-round selection, would be logical choices for Denver.
Drew Lock looks like someone who could fit the bill in the first round, while players like Jarrett Stidham, Ryan Finley, or Tyree Jackson could be second-day targets.
But the bigger question for now is: Where does Case Keenum go?
Keenum has been a journeyman quarterback and a backup for most of his career. Still, he put together a career year with the Vikings in 2017, when he led Minnesota to the NFC Championship and had a 98.3 passer rating. Then he signed with the Broncos and regressed to the mean.
He probably won’t recreate his flash-in-the-pan year, but Keenum is a high-quality backup and could still be a short-term starter. Finding a team to trade for his $18 million base salary isn’t going to be easy, though.
If the Broncos can, they’ll recoup some of the value lost when they gave up a fourth-round pick for Flacco. It’d also save Denver an additional $7 million instead of just releasing Keenum.
The Ravens got a fourth-round pick for Flacco and $10.5 million in salary cap savings for the 2019 season. After 2020, Flacco will be off the books completely.
Now, Baltimore has to figure out who is going to be Lamar Jackson’s backup in 2019 and beyond. One option is Robert Griffin III, who was behind both Jackson and Flacco on the Ravens’ depth chart in 2018. He even got some play time in December when Flacco was out with a hip injury, although he threw only six passes.
Griffin isn’t under contract for the 2019 season. As things currently stand, Jackson will be the only quarterback on the roster when the new league year starts.
Bringing back Griffin makes plenty sense, especially when he’s served as a good mentor for Jackson. There’s also the possibility that Tyrod Taylor could reunite with the Ravens in an offense he knows well.
It’s Jackson’s team and — as long as he doesn’t get injured — it won’t matter much who winds up backing him up. But now that Flacco is officially gone, it’s time to figure out who will sit in the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
It already seemed like Nick Foles would end up as the replacement for Blake Bortles, who will likely be jettisoned soon. There’s reportedly been a lot of mutual interest between Foles and the Jaguars.
It looks even likelier now. Flacco is scratched off the Jaguars’ list of quarterback candidates, and Denver is removed from the list of possible destinations for Foles.
The Jaguars need a long-term solution at quarterback and could use the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft to address the position. So the wild card here is that Keenum may be an attractive option as a bridge starter while a rookie is preparing for the job.
Keenum would presumably be much cheaper than Foles. Still, it’d be an upset at this point if Foles didn’t wind up in Jacksonville.
Alex Smith suffered a devastating leg injury in November. There’s a possibility he’ll never play again, and most seem resigned that he’ll be out of action in 2019, at least.
“We know and understand that it’s probably not going to happen that we have him this year,” Washington running back Chris Thompson told NBC Sports this week.
The other quarterbacks currently on the roster are Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson, and Colt McCoy. None are inspiring options, and only McCoy is under contract for the 2019 season. So Washington is definitely in the market for a passer.
Another problem is that Washington doesn’t have many resources to rectify that. There are a few players the team can release to clear cap space — including Josh Norman — but for now, the team has less than $18 million of room under the salary cap. It also isn’t set to pick in the 2019 NFL Draft until the No. 15 overall selection.
Flacco may have been a good fit for Washington, but Keenum could be an even better, and cheaper, option.
If reporters in Miami are to be believed, the Dolphins are packing it in next season to load up on cap space and draft picks.
That's fine. Then tank for someone else. The point is the Dolphins are tanking.— Armando Salguero (@ArmandoSalguero) January 29, 2019
Everyone I speak to behind the scenes tells me so. https://t.co/wsvc7PIORe
Part of that plan is expected to include parting with Ryan Tannehill — clearing at least $13 million in cap space. Trading for Flacco and his $18.5 million base salary was a doable move for the Dolphins, but it wouldn’t have made much sense for a team that’s supposedly tanking.
If Miami really is phoning it in this season, Keenum is a perfect fit. As long as Denver doesn’t find a trade partner — which seems unlikely — he’ll hit the open market and sign somewhere for cheap.
The Dolphins seem like a good landing spot for Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, but he probably wouldn’t start right away. Keenum could be just the ticket for a team that isn’t concerned with making a Super Bowl run in 2019.
The Giants could be another team interested in Keenum as a bridge starter for a rookie — if they decide to part with Eli Manning.
New York can recoup $17 million in cap space by releasing or trading Manning. That’d be a good move, because Manning looks way past his best days. He just turned 38 and the Giants desperately need to find their next passer.
But the real value of the Flacco trade is that it may prove Manning is an asset that can be traded. It’d have to be a situation that Manning likes enough to waive his no-trade clause, but it’s not that farfetched to think the Giants could find an offer.
Statistically, Manning was a better quarterback than Flacco in 2018 and has been in most seasons.
Manning completed a career-best 66 percent of his passes for 4,299 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. His 92.4 passer rating is higher than any rating Flacco has finished with in the last eight seasons.
So if the Ravens can get a fourth-round pick for a washed 34-year-old quarterback to be a short-term starter, maybe the Giants could get a late-round pick of their own for their 38-year-old quarterback?
The teams drafting in the top five of the 2019 NFL Draft
The top five in April currently stands as follows:
The first three teams all make significant investments at quarterback during the 2018 offseason. The Raiders and Buccaneers appear likely to stick with Derek Carr and Jameis Winston, respectively.
Altogether, none of those teams are expected to be landing spots for the top quarterbacks in the 2019 draft class. However, after those teams are the Giants at No. 6, the Jaguars at No. 7, and the Broncos at No. 10.
That could be the feeding frenzy where young passers like Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock, or maybe even Duke’s Daniel Jones fly off the board.
The Broncos seemed like a team that could try hopping ahead of the Giants and Jaguars for a quarterback. That’s what they did in Dan Kadar’s latest mock — sending away a 2020 first-round pick to the Buccaneers to jump up for Lock.
But now that potential strategy is much less prudent. It’s still possible, though the Broncos will probably wait to take a quarterback with a later pick so he can sit and learn behind Flacco.
That doesn’t mean the teams in the top five are out of luck. Those that want to trade down may still get a phone call, but it seems the group collectively lost one of their best options when the Broncos traded for Flacco.