One of the Ravens' checklist items this offseason is to add a young developmental backup quarterback if the opportunity presents itself.
But finding Joe Flacco's eventual replacement? That's not high on the list.
While saying you "can think about life after Joe," Owner Steve Bisciotti made it clear during Friday's State of the Ravens press conference that there won't be a ton of focus on it.
"We've got bigger fish to fry, I guess," Bisciotti said. "We're a long way off to have to worry about Joe."
Some pundits have wondered if Flacco's health will become more of an issue moving forward.
A model of consistency and durability, Flacco started 137 straight games over his first eight seasons, which still ranks as the NFL's sixth-longest streak of all-time for a quarterback.
The streak was broken in 2015 when he tore his ACL, then Flacco missed all of training camp and the preseason last year because of a herniated disc in his back.
Flacco turned 33 last month and is entering his 11th season, but Bisciotti still sees a lot of tread on the quarterback's tires.
"I don't know of any franchise quarterbacks that are retiring at 33, 34, 35 anymore – none of them," Bisciotti said. "Eli [Manning] and Ben [Roethlisberger] and our friend up in New England [Tom Brady], they're all staying at 35, 36, 37 – Drew Brees. So, no, that's not really something that we're worried about right now."
Flacco said in 2015 that he can envision himself playing when he’s 40 years old. That was before his injuries, but Flacco hasn't indicated a change of mind. He wants to play for a long time, and he wants to do it in Baltimore.
Before the 2016 season, while he was still rehabbing his knee, Flacco signed a three-year extension that puts him under contract through the 2021 season. According to Spotrac.com, his cap hit remains pretty steady through 2020 before dropping $4 million in 2021.
Last offseason, Bisciotti said the Ravens needed more from Flacco in 2017. A year later, Bisciotti said Friday that Flacco was "obviously producing at sub-standard [levels]" during the first half of the year with his back injury.
Flacco didn't let on that it was affecting him because he never wants to make excuses, but it was a big issue and changed the Ravens' offensive approach. Other injuries along the offensive line, running back and wide receiver early in the year also hampered the unit.
However, Bisciotti was encouraged by what he saw from Flacco and the offense in the second half of the year, and that gives him confidence moving forward.
Over the final nine games, the Ravens scored the fourth-most offensive points in the league. Flacco threw 13 touchdowns to just five interceptions. His quarterback rating after the first seven games was 68.6. His rating over the final nine was 89.8.
Once Flacco was healthy, got some weapons back and felt more comfortable behind his reshuffled offensive line, he produced. The Ravens opened up the offense more, which allowed Flacco to put up better numbers.
"We had Joe throwing a week before the regular-season game, and I think that we were conservative," Bisciotti said. "If you want to call it boring, we probably were boring. Part of that was protecting Joe and getting the ball out quickly, and it showed up in some pretty ugly offensive numbers.
"But, what we saw in him when our offensive line solidified and he got more comfortable in the pocket … Obviously, if we could recreate the last half of the season, then I think we would maybe still be playing."
Instead of worrying about Flacco, Baltimore is focused on getting him more weapons. The Ravens have selected just two wide receivers in the first three rounds – Torrey Smith (2011) and Breshad Perriman (2015) – since Flacco was drafted in 2008.
Last year, Baltimore's leading receivers were Mike Wallace (748 yards) and tight end Benjamin Watson (61 receptions). They tied for the lead in touchdown catches (four). Both are pending unrestricted free agents this offseason.
"We will be exploring all options in free agency and in the draft for targets for Joe," Bisciotti said.