Eisenberg: Why the Ravens Should Keep Robert Griffin III


The Ravens don't have to make roster decisions for another two weeks, a period encompassing multiple practices and three preseason games. So I offer this opinion with the understanding that things could change.

But right now, I support the idea of them keeping Robert Griffin III when they cut down to 53 men for the start of the regular season.

It would mean they're keeping three quarterbacks for the first time since 2009, almost a decade ago – quite a departure from a firm tradition. And, as with many roster moves, there are pros and cons to consider.

Nonetheless, I see the positives outweighing the negatives.

Quarterback isn't a position to be trifled with, especially by a team with playoff aspirations. The Ravens have gotten by with having two on their roster for so many years mostly because Joe Flacco was in his physical prime, durable to the point of invincible, or so it seemed when he started 137 straight games (including playoffs). But now he is 33, with a recent injury history including significant knee and back issues.

Flacco has looked far healthier this year, as if his physical issues were behind him, but that doesn't mean the Ravens can just assume he'll always be ready to go, as he was for so long. That's risky -- too risky, I think.

What if he suffers an injury in the season opener and has to miss several games? The Ravens need a solid backup plan.

Ideally, they'd love to hand those snaps to rookie Lamar Jackson, the franchise's de facto future quarterback after being selected in the first round of the 2018 draft. But is that wise? Jackson is a unique, alluring talent, but right now he's a 21-year-old still honing his craft. He has improved and his abilities are obvious, but he has posted a modest 54.5 passer rating through two preseason games, displaying some brilliance but also typical rookie shortcomings.

Meanwhile, Griffin, 28, is playing so well he looks like he could step in for an injured Flacco and win a game, or at least give the team a chance. The former No. 2-overall pick has run the offense handily in practices and two preseason outings (one long, one short), during which he has posted a 105.3 passer rating.

Does that mean I think Griffin could pull a Nick Foles and lead the Ravens to the promised land as an emergency starter? I'm not going that far. Like most NFL teams, the Ravens would be in trouble if their No. 1 quarterback suffers a season-ending injury.

The only way to avoid that fate is to pay for a starting-caliber backup, as the Philadelphia Eagles did with Foles last season. The Ravens, tight against the salary cap, aren't in position to do that.

But absent such a high-end insurance policy, the ideal plan is having an experienced, savvy backup who can, indeed, step in and win a game or two, preferably at an affordable price. Griffin, playing on a $1 million deal in 2018, fits that profile.

Keeping him would mean losing a player at another position, probably a rookie with the potential to help on special teams. That's a big deal, as is the fact that keeping Griffin almost surely means the team would dress three quarterbacks for games, again potentially costing them a special teams contributor.

But improving all aspects of the offense needs to be a top priority after the Ravens ranked No. 27 in the league in total yards in 2017. Opposing defenses seemingly had a good read on the unit last season. It needs to be less predictable, and Jackson could help that immediately as a change-of-pace option. But asking him to take over the offense on a full-time basis in the regular season, even for just a few games, seems like it's asking too much too soon right now. The Ravens could use another signal-caller for that. So keeping three makes sense.

Griffin looks like a fit. Not only is he playing well, he is actively mentoring Jackson, engaging with teammates – doing all the things one wants to see. Whatever issues made him controversial before, he seems to have moved on from them.

What's wrong with this picture? Not much.

Related Content