Gary Kubiak Will Reportedly Coach Again; Will Joe Flacco Join Him?
After two years on the personnel side of things, Gary Kubiak will reportedly scratch the itch and get back into coaching in 2019.
With the hiring of former Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio as the next head coach of the Denver Broncos, John Elway and Co. will hand the reigns of the offense to Kubiak.
Ravens fans have always remembered Kubiak fondly after he helped turn Baltimore’s offense around in 2014, helping Joe Flacco have one of his finest years as a pro (3,986 passing yards and 27 touchdowns to 12 interceptions) and installing a reliable ground game behind Justin Forsett and a new scheme. The Ravens’ offense ranked 12th under Kubiak that year, and helped Baltimore reach the Divisional playoffs.
(By the way, the Ravens ranked ninth in total offense this year with an average of 374.9 yards per game. That’s more yards than the 2014 unit averaged at 364.9. Just chew on that.)
Anyway, Kubiak’s reported return to coaching immediately spurred lots of speculation from Baltimore media about a Kubiak-Flacco reunion this offseason.
Fangio also has some familiarity with Flacco, as they were in Baltimore together for two years (2008-2009).
The Broncos were already a landing spot that some pundits pointed to. Denver signed Case Keenum to a two-year contract last season, but he could be on his way out.
Keenum didn’t replicate the 2017 success he had in Minnesota, as he threw for 3,890 yards but tossed 18 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. His 81.2 quarterback rating ranked 29th in the NFL – one spot below Flacco’s 84.2.
Keenum has a $21 million cap hit next year with an $18 million base salary, per Spotrac. If Denver were to cut Keenum ($11 million savings), they could trade for Flacco, who would have an $18.5 million base salary/cap hit.
Plus, just imagine Flacco’s big arm put to use in the thin air at Mile High Miracle. Need help?
So, this all makes too much sense, right? Well, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport threw cold water on the idea when joining “The Rich Eisen Show” yesterday.
“Well, they already do have a stop-gap quarterback already in the building with Case Keenum,” Rapoport said. “Bringing on another Band-Aid, it’s possible, but I wouldn’t say it’s likely. I do think that they’ll be able to get the most out of Case Keenum, who I’m almost positive Kubiak also had in Houston. I do expect them to go out and draft a quarterback as well.”
Sure, maybe Denver will draft a quarterback at No. 10 overall. They could keep Keenum and hope to get a rookie in April. But Flacco, who is under contract for three more seasons, could also be a lot better than a "Band-Aid," and Kubiak knows it.
Schmuck: Ravens Need to Hold Their Defense Together
As my colleague, Clifton Brown, wrote on Tuesday, the Ravens’ top-ranked defense could undergo big changes this offseason.
To review: C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith and Brent Urban are all pending unrestricted free agents. Eric Weddle and Jimmy Smith could be too pricey to keep at their current rate. Brandon Carr could retire. That’s a lot of experience and talent that could leave Baltimore.
The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck says the Ravens need to find a way to keep a bunch of them.
“This is the NFL, so there’s always turnover and the Ravens have shown in the past that they are willing to make the hard choices, even when it means cutting loose popular players,” Schmuck wrote.
“They are already set to do that with franchise quarterback Joe Flacco and may have to consider cap-related decisions regarding Michael Crabtree and even Marshal Yanda and Sam Koch, but they need to keep enough of their stars on the other side of the ball to make sure this year’s playoff appearance isn’t just a one-time thing.”
Sidenote: I don’t envision the Ravens parting ways with Yanda or Koch, but we continue …
“There is general agreement that Mosley will be the top free agent priority, and the Ravens will have to dig deep because he’s that good and he’s the player who fits perfectly into the royal lineage of a franchise that owes its prominence to a long and storied defensive tradition,” Schmuck wrote. “They simply cannot let him go.”
Mosley also doesn’t want to go, and if it were up to him, he would set the odds of him returning at “100 percent.”
Suggs is a more difficult conversation, as Schmuck pointed out that he had 5 ½ sacks through Week 7, but only 1 ½ over the final 10 games. Of course, everybody knows Suggs contributes a lot more to the Ravens than just sacks (leadership, smarts, fun, etc.).
“He said during his postgame scrum on Sunday that he intends to play next season and hopes that it will be with the Ravens,” Schmuck wrote. “That likely will depend on just how much it will take to re-sign him.”
The general feeling from Baltimore pundits is that it will be difficult to keep Za’Darius Smith, who led the Ravens with 8 ½ sacks. Ravens fans have seen this before (see Paul Kruger, Pernell McPhee).
“Za’Darius Smith figures to be a victim of the salary cap. He had a very solid season, starting all 16 games and finishing with 8½ sacks, but he’s 26 and he’s got a chance to make a big score in free agency — likely more than the Ravens can afford,” Schmuck wrote.
Smith topped Pro Football Focus’ list of under-the-radar free agents this offseason. Perhaps so under the radar that he doesn’t command huge money?
“It’s setting up to be a deep edge [draft] class, which makes Smith that much more appealing on the open market,” wrote PFF’s Michael Renner.
“The other edge-rusher out of Kentucky in 2015, the former fourth-rounder passed up Bud Dupree in a big way this season. Smith notched 60 pressures, the 17th most among edge defenders in the league. He doesn’t offer too much in the way of run defense, but hey, it’s 2019.”
Read Schmuck’s full column to see what he believes could happen with Weddle, Jimmy Smith and Carr.
Pundits Applaud Browns’ Head Coach Hiring of Freddie Kitchens
The Cleveland Browns hired Freddie Kitchens as their next head coach, opting to go with an internal hire. It’s quite a rise for Kitchens, who began the year as the team’s running backs coach before being promoted to interim offensive coordinator after Hue Jackson’s firing.
Kitchens will be the Browns’ eighth head coach, including this year’s interim HC Gregg Williams, since John Harbaugh took over in Baltimore in 2008. That is a lot of turnover.
However, pundits are applauding the Kitchens hire, led by General Manager John Dorsey, who is the same guy who made Baker Mayfield the No. 1-overall pick.
Kitchens turned the Browns into one of the most exciting offenses in the second half of the season, and helped Mayfield flourish. Now it looks like the Ravens will have to deal with that pairing, which put up 24 points in Baltimore in Week 17, for years to come.