What Drafting Lamar Jackson Means for Joe Flacco


The Ravens' choice of quarterback Lamar Jackson Thursday night raised a lot of questions about the future of the position in Baltimore.

Baltimore has Joe Flacco under contract through the 2021 season. He's been its franchise quarterback for the past decade and was the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII five years ago.

Now there's an exciting new first-round rookie quarterback coming to Baltimore.

In the short term, it sounds like Jackson is going to be sitting and learning in his first year.

"Joe Flacco is our quarterback," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the thing we have to remember. Lamar's going to have a great chance to develop."

"We're trying to win this year," General Manager Ozzie Newsome added. "And in order for us to win this year, we need Joe Flacco. That's why we went and got the receivers, that's why we got the tight end [Hayden Hurst], to give Joe some help. We want to win this year."

A dual-threat quarterback who may be just as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arms, Jackson can still sharpen his game as a pocket passer. With Flacco on board, Jackson will have a golden chance to develop.

The Ravens have the right coaches to work with him. Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Assistant Head Coach Greg Roman and Quarterbacks Coach James Urban have experience helping similarly-styled quarterbacks, including Michael Vick (who said Jackson reminds him of himself), Donovan McNabb and Colin Kaepernick.

Jackson can also learn from a respected professional in Flacco, who has reached his profession's pinnacle, and Robert Griffin III III, who is also in Jackson's mold.

"I want to learn a lot," Jackson said. "A guy who wins the Super Bowl, he's the [greatest of all-time] to me. I look up to [Flacco], just want to learn a lot from his experience and how he led his team."

So what happens after next season, when Jackson has spent a year learning? That remains to be seen.

"You take it one year at a time in this league," Harbaugh, who reached out to Flacco after the team selected Jackson. "Predict the future, say what's going to happen down the road, nobody knows. We have a great quarterback in Joe Flacco, there's no doubt about it. Now we have another great quarterback."

The Ravens have stood behind Flacco through the highs and lows of his 10-year career. They took the Delaware product in the first round (No. 18 overall) in 2008. After he won Super Bowl XLVII, they gave him the largest contract in NFL history at the time.

But Flacco's play has slipped in recent years, in part because of health issues and a lack of weapons.

After dealing with a back injury at the start of last season, Flacco threw for just 3,141 yards and tossed 18 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. His 5.72 yards per attempt was the lowest mark in the league. At 33 years old, Flacco's health has become a factor.

"I think when you get to this stage in a quarterback's career – we've seen it done in New England, we've seen it done in a lot of places – it's time to draft a quarterback," Harbaugh said. "When the opportunity came to get a really good one, I think you have to jump on it and take it."

If the Ravens were to release Flacco after the 2018 season, they would save $10.5 million, though absorb a $16 million dead cap hit, which could be spread over two years.

On the flip side, they could also keep him. Harbaugh pointed to the New England Patriots as an example because of what they've done with Jimmy Garoppolo and other quarterbacks. New England drafted Garoppolo in the second round in 2014. Last season, they traded him for a higher second-round pick.

The Ravens will see how Flacco plays and Jackson develops, then make a decision next offseason. Harbaugh cautioned reporters on making assumptions about what will happen. He said it's never bad to have too many good players.

"If you get a chance to get a talent like this, I don't think you can pass it up," Harbaugh said. "It doesn't say anything other than we got a lot better as a football team. All the predictions down the road, that's cool, I get it, but the future can predict itself."

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