The move will have a trickle-down effect not only for the Broncos but the rest of the quarterback market as we barrel toward the opening of free agency on March 13.
Knee-jerk reactions to the trade fell into two buckets:
1) Praise for the Ravens' ability to receive compensation for Flacco.
2) Head-scratching over the latest John Elway QB move.
Thinking a bit deeper, here's a quick look at who might be the winners and losers of the pre-Valentine's Day swap:
Baltimore's front office: 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. Baltimore telegraphed that the organization would end up cutting him if a proper trade partner couldn't be found. Head coach John Harbaugh openly discussed the end of the Flacco era. Credit new GM Eric DeCosta for generating fourth-round value out of a player the team had little use for in 2019. The $16 million in dead money stings, but that was coming regardless of how the Ravens parted ways. 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.
Joe Flacco: Joey Elite gets another starting quarterback gig. While there are still the issues of Case Keenum's future and what Elway does in the draft, Flacco is clearly in line to be one of 32 starting quarterbacks in Week 1 of 2019. For a quarterback who has averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt over the past four years, eclipsed 4,000 yards passing just once in his career, brings no mobility to the position and has dealt with back and hip injuries the past two seasons, being penciled in as a starter is a clear win. After watching Lamar Jackson usurp his gig in Baltimore, Flacco is back in a driver's seat.
Lamar Jackson: It was obvious when Harbaugh continued to ride Jackson despite Flacco being healthy enough to play last season, but Wednesday's news highlights in permanent marker that Baltimore is now Jackson's team. There will be no calls to switch QBs -- as there were during the Ravens' postseason loss to the Los Angeles Chargers -- if the young passer hits an oily patch and lands in Strugglesville during his 2019 drive.
Social media snark artists: Immediately after the news broke, a cavalcade of self-proclaimed amateur comedians mashed their keypads to drop snide analysis about the deal, particularly aiming at Elway. Perhaps the snarky criticism will prove prescient in a year. Of course, social media also lampooned the Dallas Cowboys clowns for giving up a first-round pick for Amari Cooper.
John Elway: So, wait, am I piling on Elway, too? Well, judging a trade minutes after it's agreed to, and nearly a month before it can be finalized, is a fool's errand. Yet, Elway's track record provides a troubling backdrop for his latest QB move. Since importing Peyton Manning in 2012, Elway has swung and missed at every turn in his attempt to find a reliable signal-caller. He drafted Brock Osweiler 57th overall in 2012. He took Trevor Siemian in 2015. He traded up for Paxton Lynch in the first round in 2016. And he handed Case Keenum a two-year, $36 million contract last offseason. Each move has blown up in Elway's face. Now a mid-30s Flacco is supposed to be the panacea for Elway's typhoid QB fever? Parting ways with Keenum would also leave $10 million in dead money on the Broncos' salary cap (versus $21 million if he's on the roster). Combine that with the $18.5 million Flacco is set to earn in 2019, and that's a high-priced QB room with little upside. Perhaps Elway still goes out and lands a hotshot rookie signal-caller in the draft, Flacco serves as a one-year stand-in (again) and the newbie becomes a franchise staple (finally). Maybe in that hypothetical scenario, the trade won't be viewed in a negative light. Another swing and miss, however, and even the most ardent Elway supporters in Denver will begin to waver.
Case Keenum: Keenum didn't play well in 2018. Even he admitted as much. Yet, the 30-year-old also dealt with a struggling offensive line -- imagine Flacco playing behind that group -- and watched his best receiver blow an Achilles and his second-best veteran wideout get traded. Regardless, Keenum getting supplanted by Flacco takes the shine off a QB who was basking in the glow of a career year just last offseason. Would another team give him a shot in hopes of recapturing that 2017 Minnesota magic, or will he return to journeyman backup status? Perhaps a reunion in New York with former Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur might be his best option. There are few starting QB openings this season, and none seem likely to give Keenum a legit shot to play every week.
QBs poised to enter the offseason carousel:NFL Network's Mike Garafolo notes that the Flacco trade likely doesn't affect Nick Foles' market much. It seems Jacksonville is the most logical destination for the former Super Bowl MVP. The Flacco swap does take some bargaining power away, however, even if Denver wasn't seriously interested in Foles. With the Broncos out of the free-agent equation, the rest of the QBs hitting the market will find one less viable option. With so few openings, and the likes of Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins waiting in the draft, Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Tannehill (presumably), et al. could have trouble landing a sizable contract with a chance to compete for a starting gig.