Of Course Flacco Is Still In Ravens' Future
All quarterbacks go through slumps. Unfortunately for Joe Flacco, some of the toughest moments of his career have come just as his five-year rookie contract is about to expire.
His struggles during the Ravens' current three-game losing skid have made some question his future in Baltimore.
But it shouldn't.
In fact, it would be "stunning."
"The only thing worse than Joe Flacco's play this month has been his timing," wrote ESPN's Jamison Hensley.
"Flacco can become an unrestricted free agent in March, but the Ravens aren't going to allow him to hit the market."
While the timing has been unfortunate, neither Ravens brass nor Flacco's agent will take a narrow view to the negotiating table this offseason.
His overall body of work is not only impressive, but Flacco has rewritten the record books.
He is the first NFL quarterback to lead his to team to the playoffs in each of his first five seasons. He's also the Ravens' all-time passing leader. He has the most wins of any starting quarterback (including the playoffs) since he came into the league in 2008 with 58 – that includes Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
"I would be stunned if he wasn't here in 2013," wrote The Baltimore Sun's Matt Vensel. "At the very least, he is an above-average quarterback with oodles of talent and maddening inconsistency, something that at least half the teams in the league wouldn't mind putting up with."
Hensley is also looking beyond the narrow sliver of the past several weeks and sees a bigger picture within the market.
"Flacco's erratic play has undoubtedly lowered the Ravens' confidence in him. But it hasn't lessened his chances of returning. The Ravens won't – and honestly can't – let him walk," the AFC North blogger wrote.
"This isn't necessarily an endorsement of Flacco. It's just the reality of the situation. Although Flacco's play has been frustrating, a look at the quarterbacks who will be available this offseason makes Flacco seem like Tom Brady."
Potential replacements? There's Michael Vick, Alex Smith, Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb or Ryan Fitzpatrick – Flacco is a far better option than them all. The draft? "There's no prospect a team would take over Flacco," says Hensley.
One more point that can't be overlooked – all signs point to Flacco bouncing back. He has been down before – even when the pressure was at its max. Hensley reminded readers that Flacco didn't throw for more than 180 yards in three straight games before outplaying Tom Brady in last season's AFC championship game.
So it all comes back to one thing.
"The question isn't whether the Ravens will keep Flacco," Hensley wrote. "It's how much it will cost them to keep Flacco."
Has Anyone Seen Bryant McKinnie?
One way to help Flacco bounce back is by protecting him.
The offensive line has struggled doing that recently as Flacco has been sacked 13 times in the past four games. And with two games remaining, he's already been taken down more times (34) this season than all of last year (31).
Granted, Flacco could help himself by moving more in the pocket and getting rid of the ball sooner. But you know who else might be able to help? Left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
"Is Bryant McKinnie still on this team?" asked CSNBaltimore.com's Bo Smolka.
The offensive line has had three different starters at the left guard position, and missing Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda (ankle) Sunday didn't help. While McKinnie's re-emergence would create massive movement throughout the line with just two games remaining, it might not hurt to give it a try based on recent results.
"Can McKinnie help? Not from the doghouse he can't," Smolka wrote.
Added BaltimoreRavens.com* *columnist John Eisenberg: "While Michael Oher and Kelechi Osemele struggle to contain speed rushers, veteran tackle Bryant McKinnie, a starter and one of the team's best pass blockers a year ago, watches from the sideline.
"Whatever doghouse the mountainous McKinnie is in, it must be a deep, dark place."
Final Home Game Ever For Lewis, Reed?
This Sunday marks the Ravens' final home game of 2012.
With 37-year-old Ray Lewis, there's always a possibility of retirement. And Ed Reed is in the final days of his contract.
Thus, WNST's Drew Forrester wonders if this is the last time Ravens fans will get to see the two in action (that is, if Lewis can even play after suffering a triceps muscle tear).
"[T]here's a chance you'll be watching Ray Lewis and Ed Reed both play their final home game ever as members of the Ravens," Forrester wrote.
"Go ahead and read that sentence again and let it sink in. When you settle in your seats at 4:25 pm this Sunday, it could be the final time you see Reed and Lewis in purple."
The Ravens still have the chance to host a playoff game at M&T Bank Stadium by winning the AFC North with at least one victory in one of their final two games.
But just in case they don't, Forrester urges fans to soak up the experience now.
"I sure hope this Sunday isn't the final time we get to see No. 52 and/or No. 20 in purple. If it is, though, it's been one helluva run for those two. In fact, we'll
never see anything like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed again."
Power Rankings: Week 16
Prior to the Ravens' three-game losing streak, they were in the conversation as one of the AFC's elite with the Texans, Patriots and Broncos.
Now, Baltimore is ranked as low as No. 15 and some wonder if it can win a playoff game. The team has two games to change perceptions.
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: No. 11, moved down three spots
"Three consecutive losses and they still clinch a playoff berth. Wow. Who doesn't want to play them in the playoffs?"
ESPN.com: No. 11, moved down three spots
"Baltimore lost two straight home games following a 15-game home win streak. The Ravens haven't lost three in a row at home in five years."
Brian Billick, Foxsports.com: No. 9, no movement
"On Sunday against the Broncos, the Ravens were without Ray Lewis, started a less-than-100-percent Terrell Suggs and used an offensive coordinator who was calling plays for the first time in his career."
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: No. 11, moved down three spots
"The Baltimore Ravens defense has had the wood laid to it too often. While talk of the Cam Cameron-less offense was all the rage in the media last week, where's the other unit? Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees' group has allowed 29.3 points per outing during this three-game losing streak. The Redskins and Broncos both ran the football up and down the field on Baltimore's front seven."
Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk.com: No. 14, moved down five spots
"Fat, drunk, stupid and/or carrying a five-game losing streak into the postseason is no way to go through life."
Peter King, Sports Illustrated: No. 15, moved down five spots
"This is a playoff team? The Ravens are 0-3 this month, and they've been outscored by 23 points, and their quarterback is completing 53 percent of his throws. Bad."
- The Ravens are 17-2 when has MORE THAN 20 carries in a game. [ESPN Stats and Information]
- Rice and his Giants counterpart, running back Ahmad Bradshaw discuss the Ravens vs. Giants matchup this weekend, and the recent struggles of their respective teams. [ESPN's SVP & Russillo]
- @ravensinsider: Ravens are currently $1.212 million under the NFL salary cap limit [Twitter]
- @pmgleason: #Ravens have won 9-straight regular season home finales, the NFL's longest such active streak (Packers are next at 7). [Twitter]
- @ravens: #Ravens have terminated the contract of LB D.J. Bryant and signed RB to the practice squad. [Twitter]
- Catching the spirit of Christmas and giving, receiver Torrey Smith hosts his first toy drive at Dogwood Elementary School in Woodlawn. [WJZ]