The Baltimore Ravens are a good team. Their defense is returning a lot of key talent, and they only improved in the NFL Draft. But this team, as good as it is, has been dragged down by Joe Flacco for years. Yes, they drafted Lamar Jackson, but that doesn’t mean he’ll start right away. You don’t simply bench a $22 million quarterback. Something tells me the Ravens will drag their feet moving on from Flacco, just like they dragged their feet drafting his successor.
The funny thing is that the Ravens are, at least by most accounts, a team improved from last year. The Ravens added wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown in free agency, and while both have serious questions surrounding their acquisition (Crabtree is aging, Brown needs to stay healthy), the Ravens needed a change of pace at that position.
The Ravens also boosted the offense in the NFL Draft, grabbing tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, offensive linemen Orlando Brown and Bradley Bozeman. The receivers they grabbed, particularly Jordan Lasley, are underwhelming, but the team made up for it by drafting Lamar Jackson as their quarterback of the future at the tail end of Round 1.
Take this revamped offense, with Alex Collins returning as one of the underrated running backs in the NFL, and combine it with the Ravens’ defense, which has somehow maintained its slot among the league’s top units for years, and you have a playoff contender. A team that can undoubtedly win the AFC North.
But there’s one problem.
Who will the quarterback be?
With better weapons, Joe Flacco could bring the Ravens to the big dance. He’s done it before. But Flacco needs a specific caliber of player to make this work. He’s not a quarterback who elevates those around him. He doesn’t have any dominant traits. His Super Bowl run was impressive, but it’s been a decade. In recent years, we’ve more often seen Flacco take playoff rosters and nudge them out of contention. Last year, in particular, was his worst campaign yet.
Joe Flacco has never been an elite quarterback. With an impressive supporting cast, he could be good enough to win. But this Ravens’ supporting cast, as new as it is, isn’t the kind that can elevate Flacco. It’s good. Much better than last year. But is it good enough? At this point, I’m inclined to say no.
The Ravens’ loyalty to Flacco, the worst value deal in the NFL, has been undying over the years. And even though they traded up to grab Lamar Jackson in Round 1, reason suggests that they won’t simply hand Jackson the offense. They’ll enter the season with Flacco as the starter. And unless Flacco plays absolutely atrocious football, they’ll keep him in, to ensure that they receive dividends from his inflated salary.
The quarterback situation, until Jackson is handed the starting job for good, will hinder this franchise, and keep them from taking the next step. John Harbaugh can keep the Ravens in contention, as can their defense, with promising young players like Marlon Humphrey, Tim Williams, and Zach Sieler. But Flacco will simply hold them back.