Let me preface today's entry by saying that you will see a lot of the word "reported."
That's because the reported (told ya) Joe Flacco trade is not official, cannot become official until March 13 and will not be confirmed, nor commented on, by any Ravens front office executive.
Today, I will give you the media's reaction to the reported trade. Here we go …
Eric DeCosta, Ravens Get High Praise
Let's also first say that most pundits were very dubious about the Ravens' chances of being able to execute a trade instead of being forced to release Flacco.
Instead, Baltimore will reportedly get a fourth-round pick in return.
ESPN's Bill Barnwell gave the trade a B+ grade from the Ravens' perspective.
"The Ravens have to be thrilled to get a mid-round pick for Flacco, who was out of their plans and likely to be released unless Baltimore found a trade partner," Barnwell wrote.
NFL.com's Kevin Patra listed Baltimore’s front office among the “winners” of the trade, along with Flacco, Lamar Jackson and social media.
"The Ravens, who might as well have placed a 'QB for sale' ad on Zillow, couldn't have made it more obvious they were parting ways with Flacco," Patra wrote. "Credit new GM Eric DeCosta for generating fourth-round value out of a player the team had little use for in 2019.
"It's unknown at this point who, if anyone, the Broncos were bidding against for Flacco's services, but getting more than a late-round pick for a 34-year-old quarterback with durability questions is a boon for Baltimore."
Local media also wrote that DeCosta did well to get something in return for Flacco.
"Credit Eric DeCosta for extracting value from an inevitable divorce, especially after the organization hadn't even tried to be coy about its intentions," wrote WNST’s Luke Jones. "I was skeptical he'd find a trade partner."
"The trade of Joe Flacco marks the first significant move the Ravens engineered under new general manager Eric DeCosta," added Penn Live’s Aaron Kasinitz. "All in all, it'd be difficult to imagine DeCosta making out much better."
So Why Denver (Reportedly)?
You can't tell me this doesn't look weird …
DeCosta said earlier this month that it only takes "one team" to be interested to execute a trade. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the reported trade came together in just 24 hours and after the Broncos inquired about the status of Nick Foles.
"Once it became clear that a long-term contract extension for Foles was not coming, and there were a lot of moving parts there … it certainly seemed like the Joe Flacco deal was much easier, much cleaner and much faster," Rapoport said.
The Broncos also have Case Keenum, who they signed last offseason, under contract, but he had an up-and-down season in which he threw for 3,890 yards but tossed 18 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.
"I’m going to say it’s a small upgrade," PTI's Tony Kornheiser said. "I think Flacco could be good for them. … It's not like going to first class from coach. It's like going to a better coach seat."
The Broncos have a strong defense and want to get back into the playoffs after back-to-back years on the outside. Flacco, who helped lead the Ravens to the postseason in seven of his 11 seasons, is a proven winner.
"The pivot to Flacco signals that the Broncos still believe their roster is good enough to contend in the all-of-a-sudden insane AFC West—or that the team is good enough to stay afloat," Sports Illustrated’s Connor Orr wrote.
There are also some notable connections to Denver. New Broncos Head Coach Vic Fangio was on the Ravens' defensive coaching staff during Flacco's first two seasons (2008-2009).
It's John Elway who makes the personnel decisions in Denver, and he can certainly appreciate what Flacco would bring to the table.
"The Joe Flacco trade is just the latest in a decades-long string of evidence illustrating the NFL's insatiable appetite for big-armed passers. John Elway can especially appreciate big-armed passers because he was one," Sports Illustrated’s Andy Benoit wrote.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer wrote that he likes the reported trade mainly because it gives the Broncos long-term flexibility.
"If healthy, and based on how he played before he got hurt last year, Flacco's a fine short-term quarterback for the Broncos," he wrote. "The team can win with him, and maybe more than that. And just as important, he'll allow you to be judicious with Elway's long-term plan."
Joe Flacco Could Have a Lot of Success in Denver
It doesn't take much digging through the memory bank to remember that time when Flacco played really, really well in Denver.
Oh yeah, there it is …
Flacco has had a lot of good days in Denver …
Of course, not everyone thinks Flacco would flourish in Denver. Flacco hasn't replicated the magic of that 2012 postseason run in the six seasons since (though continuing that level of torrid play would be asking too much).
But there are a lot of pundits that envision Flacco having a lot of success in the Rocky Mountains.
"The Denver Broncos are a better football team today with Vic Fangio coaching and Joe Flacco quarterbacking," said FS1's Colin Cowherd.
Benoit wrote that Elway is making two bets.
1) He's betting on Flacco's arm to open up the entire field, which Keenum struggled to do last year.
2) He's betting that Flacco will fit well into new Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello's scheme.
"Flacco can execute those designed-movement plays (recall that he did so effectively in 2014, Gary Kubiak's one year as Baltimore's offensive coordinator), but he's in Denver primarily to offer a full-scope dropback passing game," Benoit wrote.
Of course, the question is how much Flacco has in the tank after knee, back and hip injuries have derailed him in recent seasons. Over the first half of the 2018 season, Flacco was moving extremely well, and he was physically ready to play by season's end.
The Broncos have weapons with Pro Bowl running back Philip Lindsay. Their top receivers, as of now, are Emmanuel Sanders (coming off a torn Achilles) and Courtland Sutton. Jeff Heuerman is the leading tight end. Broncos players seem pretty excited about the reported trade.
"Big move by Elway," Sanders told 9NEWS. "Veteran leader who has won the big game. We also have money to spend to in free agency as well. Looking forward to seeing more pieces put into place."
"I like it,'' said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. "Hopefully we get more pieces around him."
Vegas, however, does not believe Flacco would greatly help the Broncos' chances of winning Super Bowl 54.
Media and Fans Thank Flacco, Express Wide Range of Emotions in Tributes
I don't know how this is even possible but check out this dude in Denver.
Meanwhile, in Baltimore, the reported trade was met with mixed feelings.
On one hand, the writing has been on the wall for a while that Flacco would be playing elsewhere in 2019. On the other hand, there is a lot of sentimentality when a player that's meant so much to a team, and city, is reportedly traded away.
"Before their eyes, Flacco grew into a team leader, a community presence and a father of five young children," wrote The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec. "His exit stings — not only because of what he represented on and off the field for over a decade in Baltimore — but because of what the [reported] transaction represents: the official end of the winningest era in franchise history."
Before Flacco arrived in 2008, the Ravens started 15 different quarterbacks in 12 seasons, including Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer, Eric Zeier, Stoney Case, Scott Mitchell, Chris Redman, Steve McNair and Kyle Boller. After Flacco arrived, he started 122 straight games – the seventh-longest streak among quarterbacks in NFL history.
Oh, and there was that whole leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl title chapter, too.
"Flacco will be remembered in part for what he never became — below-average post-Super Bowl numbers bear that out — but he was the best quarterback in team history and, most importantly, a champion," WNST’s Luke Jones wrote. "The Ravens are lucky he passed their way after years wasted in the quarterback doldrums."
Watching Jackson take over as the starter this year wasn't easy for the confident Flacco, but he dealt with it with the utmost class.
Here are some of the fan replies Jefferson got from his tweet …
Just peruse these gifs to get a gauge on how Ravens Nation reacted to the news.
Press Box put together a collection of stories and tributes to Flacco from former players and Baltimore media members. Russell Street Report's Tony Lombardi summed up much of the sentiment.
"Thanks for everything Joe," he wrote. "Thanks for some unforgettable moments – the comeback in New England in 2011 that fell just short. Thanks for the Mile High Miracle. And of course, thanks for that second Lombardi. As a body of work, yours was pretty special."
While many fans looked back on those fond Flacco memories, there was still a feeling around Baltimore that the time had come for a change. Since winning Super Bowl XLVII, Flacco had a 21-20 record as the starter and tossed 50 touchdowns to 34 interceptions.
"There is a significant segment of the Ravens' fan base, and they'll surely be heard from today, that believes the organization let Flacco down. There's some truth to that. A revolving cast of offensive coordinators surely didn't help matters. Neither did the team's failure to surround the quarterback with an explosive group of playmakers or a stable offensive line," Zrebiec wrote.
"Perhaps a more fair assessment is that the Ravens and Flacco let each other down. Nobody could've realistically expected Flacco to consistently play at the level he reached during the Super Bowl run. However, Flacco's regression was steady. And aside from a 2014 season in which he meshed well with play-caller Gary Kubiak, he was one of the league's lowest-rated quarterbacks."
The rub was always that Flacco was one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks after being named the Super Bowl MVP in 2013, and his production didn't match.
"It's easy to say Flacco didn't live up to his historic contract signed after his 2012 postseason, but the organization never adjusted upon seeing he couldn't do it by himself, continuing to prioritize defense and putting far fewer resources into the offense," Jones wrote. "The letdown was mutual at the very least."
When it came to the playoffs, "January Joe" morphed into a different quarterback.
"Flacco's playoff success ultimately defines his legacy with the Ravens," wrote ESPN. "The lasting memory of Flacco in Baltimore should be how he raised his game when the stakes were at their highest."
If the reported trade is completed, will the Ravens continue to have as much long-term success without Flacco?
"Now the focus moves to Jackson, who has big shoes to fill in duplicating Flacco's longevity with the organization," NBC Sports’ Lisa Redmond wrote. "It won't be an easy task, and only time will tell if the change was worth it."