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Eisenberg: Ravens Have Two Different Quarterback Moves to Make

Posted Feb 13, 2018

The first is to draft a mid- to late-round backup for Joe Flacco, which could happen as early as April. The second is to draft a first-rounder to groom as Flacco's eventual replacement, but that won't happen this year.

It seems the Ravens are ready to at least talk about who might play quarterback for them post-Joe Flacco, not that that time is imminent.

Although Owner Steve Bisciotti downplayed the issue to the media earlier this month, saying any transition is “a long way off,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said in January that questions about drafting a quarterback this year were “fair” and it was “something we’ll be talking about, for sure.”

For the record, I approve – of the Ravens discussing the idea, that is. Flacco turned 33 last month and has dealt with knee and back injuries in recent years, as well as a concussion. Frankly, it would be imprudent for them NOT to contemplate the future at his vital position.

But there’s a big difference between kicking it around philosophically and actually doing something about it. I’ve read and heard speculation about the Ravens possibly putting a succession plan in motion as early as this year, but I would be surprised to see it.

Yes, this might be a year when they draft a quarterback with a middle-round or lower-round pick with the hope that he becomes a permanent backup, much like Tyrod Taylor, a 2011 sixth-round pick who backed up Flacco for four years. That’s a move that would save money and give the front office one less decision to make every year.

But let’s be clear: if they draft a projected backup, they probably won’t be taking the guy who’ll step under center whenever Flacco’s time is up.

That’s a different move.

More than likely, it’ll be a high pick, probably a first-rounder, who eventually takes Flacco’s place.

Yes, there are examples of lower picks who have developed into franchise quarterbacks. Russell Wilson went in the third round, Kirk Cousins in the fourth. Tom Brady, as you may have heard, went No. 199 overall in 2000.

But those are exceptions to a fairly steadfast rule that the best quarterbacks usually require the investment of a high pick. History indicates the first round is where you’ll most likely find the guy you want to hand the keys to your offense – the next Carson Wentz, if you will.

Obviously, that’s why quarterbacks forever dominate the draft’s first selections. Since 2015, seven have been taken in the top half of the first round. In his latest 2018 mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay has quarterbacks being taken with four of the first six selections.

I’m guessing that whenever the Ravens get closer to the point where they might want to make a change, THAT is when they’d make the bold move and invest a high pick.

But I don’t see this being the year when that happens.

For starters, they’re still likely tied to Flacco for at least two more years because of his mega-contract.

They also have too many needs and too little salary-cap flexibility to spend their top pick, the No. 16 overall selection, on a long-term project. Coming off a third straight non-playoff season, they need immediate contributors.

Listening to Bisciotti earlier this month, they also still believe Flacco is quite capable of playing at a high level and taking them where they want to go, as he did once before. The owner cited his early-season back injury and instability along the line as explanations for the sluggishness that marked the 2017 offense before its late-season surge.

Asked if the team needed a succession plan given Flacco’s age and generally disappointing production in 2017, Bisciotti said, “That’s not really something that we’re worried about right now. We’ve got bigger fish to fry, I guess.”

He might feel differently in a year if the Ravens achieve their goal of surrounding Flacco with better targets in 2018 and he still underperforms, at least in relation to his salary.

But clearly, the front office’s current ideal scenario is for Flacco to remain under center for the foreseeable future, stay healthy and raise his game.

If any change occurs at his position, it would likely be the addition of a new, young backup. That’s it, though, at least for now.

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