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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco started the season, the last of his rookie contract, in a confident mood. He boldly stated that he thought he was the best quarterback in football. He then went on to praise the strength of his offensive line and receiving corps, whilst also reiterating his faith in then-Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron.
Fast forward six months and a change in offensive coordinators, and Flacco’s ability has been consistently questioned, despite the quarterback already having registered his career high passing yards with a game still left to play.
Nobody questions Flacco’s arm strength or his ability to make any kind of throw needed, but his pocket awareness and decision making has been scrutinized widely, with many expecting a starting quarterback of four years experience to have developed further in these areas. Flacco also had forays into the playoffs in all four of those seasons, impressing particularly in both 2010 and 2011.
This leaves Baltimore with an unenviable dilemma at the end of the season. Flacco and his agent, Joe Linta, have been holding out for ‘Elite Quarterback money’ with Linta stating earlier in the season that his ‘biggest negotiating tactic is his (Flacco’s) play on the field’. Linta could possibly be regretting that statement at this current moment.
Key errors in decision making as well as poor pocket awareness leading to strip-sacks in two consecutive games have both contributed significantly towards a three game losing streak for the playoff-bound Ravens late in the season.
This streak was snapped in Week 16 as the Ravens cruised to a comfortable victory over the New York Giants, thanks largely to an excellent performance from Flacco; a performance which will just fuel the critics’ claims that the quarterback is far too inconsistent to warrant a contract similar in value to those of Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
That being said, Flacco would certainly be an upgrade at the quarterback position for a lot of teams in the NFL, and it’s unlikely that the Ravens will want to part ways with him, especially with the lack of superior talent available at the end of the season (Michael Vick and Alex Smith both potentially available) and no high first-round draft pick to compete for the likes of Geno Smith and Matt Barkley.
Both the Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson) and Cincinnati Bengals (Andy Dalton) have shown in recent years that you can hit on a successful quarterback outside of the first round, but it’s a gamble that a perennial playoff side like the Ravens will not want to take.
The most likely course of action now seems to be that Baltimore will use their franchise tag on Flacco, giving them another season to analyze his abilities and weigh up whether he deserves a long-term contract or they begin afresh with a new quarterback.
This could have the unwelcome consequence of bringing about the end of Ed Reed’s time with the Ravens. Many had predicted that Baltimore would use the tag on Reed, with the organization not keen to give a player of his age a long-term contract. Without the tag, and uncertain over a new long-term contract, Reed could sign a big money deal with what would likely be a long list of suitors, or carry through with his threat of retirement.
Whether or not Flacco gets the contract he has been hoping for this offseason, or the tag gets used on the quarterback rather than long time Baltimore favorite Reed, it will have serious connotations for the Raven’s strategy heading into the 2013 NFL draft, especially considering their potential lack of salary cap to lure in free agents.
Image Courtesy : Baltimore Ravens