Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway sure knows how to make a splash when the water was reasonably calm. Elway crept right up to the edge of the dock and, without warning, jumped in, cannonball-style and got everyone else soaked.
Elway did make a metaphorical splash recently when he and the Baltimore Ravens “agreed in principle” to trade Joe Flacco to Denver for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Right now, most Broncos fans and analysts are still trying to sort out the why of the trade when the team already had a veteran bridge quarterback in Case Keenum.
But that question won’t and can’t be answered until the official start of the new league year on March 13th when the trade becomes finalized.
So instead of focusing on the why let’s take a look at the potential impact this trade could have on the organization moving forward into free agency and the draft.Embed from Getty Images
At first, there were some thoughts that both Keenum and Flacco would restructure their contracts to be more team friendly and then the Broncos could keep both on the roster for now.
That notion was quickly put to bed when reports came out saying that Elway spoke with Keenum to let him know the Broncos are moving on and his services are no longer required.
He’s still under contract so the Broncos will either trade him to a team willing to take on the final year of his deal, or they’ll have to cut bait and swallow $10 million in dead money
Arizona has reportedly reached out to the Broncos about a deal — likely because new head coach Kliff Kingsbury was Keenum’s position coach at Houston — but it would make more sense for teams to wait until the Broncos are forced to release Keenum, which seems inevitable.
This trade could have a large impact on how the Broncos approach the draft in April, or it could have absolutely no impact at all.
Most experts haven’t reached a consensus about who the Broncos might draft. So far, draft analysts have mocked Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, LSU linebacker Devin White and Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker to the Broncos, so it’s still entirely up in the air.
It’s well known that Elway is infatuated with Lock but does he see him as worthy of the 10th overall pick when Oregon’s Justin Herbert — the other guy Elway is in love with — will be available in the 2020 draft and is much more talented.
The Broncos certainly have plenty of holes to fill and there is talent in other positions of need that will be available at number 10, so it all depends on how Elway views his new quarterback.
Flacco has guarantees for 2019; after that, the Broncos could let him go without financial penalty.
If the 34-year-old is a one-year rental investment, then Elway will most likely draft a QB in the first round, but if he believes that he can get two or three solid years from Flacco, then Elway may wait until the more impressive 2020 class to target a franchise quarterback.
That doesn’t mean the Broncos don’t draft a quarterback in the later rounds — they should — but it would allow them to pick a player worthy of the 10th overall selection.
They could also decide to trade back in order to gather more picks that they could either use to build the team now or as trade bait for next year in order to secure a high first-round pick.
So, as we already established, everything is completely up in the air.
Sadly, Flacco is not going to attract any top free agents as Manning did in 2012. This is very much a lateral move that provides the Broncos a potential three-year window with an experienced quarterback whose contract has zero guaranteed money after this year.
Flacco does have playoff experience and a Super Bowl MVP to his name from his time in Baltimore, so that could attract some veterans who are on their last attempt to get their own ring, but he doesn’t solve many of the problems the Broncos currently have on their roster.
The new coaching staff will likely have a greater impact on who the Broncos attract in free agency than Flacco does. No high-impact offensive players will want to come to a team that is currently renting their quarterback while waiting to see what the draft brings them.
Flacco may have some impact on offensive linemen the Broncos want to bring in, but again his influence would be minimal since he won’t be the future of this team.
For any free agent, the Broncos drafting a quarterback or not will likely have a greater impact on whether or not they would want to sign with Denver than Flacco will.
Current Broncos Players
It is still to be seen how Flacco will impact the current roster. There are still so many other holes to fill and the draft hasn’t even happened yet so we have no idea what Flacco’s ultimate role will be moving forward.
However, it has to instill some confidence in current Broncos players to have a quarterback on their team that has 10 playoff wins, including Super Bowl XLVII.
He has the knowledge and experience to run the offense the Broncos will be running under new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. He is seen as a leader in the locker room and a team player.
The Broncos have a lot of young pieces that will see the field a lot in 2019 and need an experienced leader that understands the game to help guide them, especially in close games that require a calm but demanding presence.
Flacco knows all about playing until the final whistle, as many Broncos fans will never forget — or forgive — how he defeated Denver in the 2012 playoffs on his way to his first Super Bowl victory.
On that run he also defeated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Foxborough, so he also knows a thing or two about winning in harsh environments.
Flacco isn’t the same guy he was back then and he hasn’t sniffed the playoffs since 2014, but that experience is invaluable to a young team looking for direction.