Joe Flacco Must Get His Act Together, or These QBs Could Replace Him in 2013

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystDecember 22, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 16:  Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens throws a pass during the second half against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

As ESPN reported back in February, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco told WNST Radio  that headed into a contract year he considered himself "the best quarterback in the NFL."

If that's the case then he's had a funny way of showing it, as while the fifth-year pro once again will start a playoff game at the helm of the Ravens, Flacco's done very little to get the Ravens to open their coffers and sign him long-term.

Granted, Flacco's thrown for nearly 3,500 yards and twice as many touchdowns as interceptions in 2012, but his quarterback rating is still less than 90, he's completing less than 60 percent of his passes, and the numbers don't truly tell the story of how frighteningly bad he can be when things aren't going well.

Mind you, this isn't to say that Joe Flacco is going anywhere, at least not as things stand right now. In fact, the NFL Network's Albert Breer recently tweeted that if a new deal isn't worked out by March that the Ravens will slap the franchise tag on Flacco.


And to be clear, if deal isn't done, expectation is Ravens will tag Flacco.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 22, 2012



However, things can change pretty quickly in the National Football League. As Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers can readily attest, leading your team to a conference championship game doesn't guarantee as much job security as you might think.

If Flacco were to struggle mightily enough that an early playoff exit made head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome then the first place that the Ravens might turn is the aforementioned Alex Smith.

The ascension of Colin Kaepernick has made Smith expendable in San Francisco, and in the eighth-year veteran, the Ravens would get a player that has playoff experience and would keep the team's window of opportunity open where quarterback play is concerned.

With that said, though, there may be significant demand for Smith's services on the open market, so much so that the Ravens aren't willing to pay it for a quarterback whose upside is similar to Flacco's, even if that quarterback would be a significantly cheaper option.

The Ravens' biggest issue may lie in the fact that the team is stuck in a no-man's land of sorts. There are a number of young contributors on offense, including running back Ray Rice, but the team's core of defensive stars such as linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed are nearing the end of the line.

So, with that window of opportunity closing it makes switching gears under center more problematic unless the team felt comfortable moving forward with a player like Smith or Michael Vick.

Yes, that Michael Vick.

The 2012 season was more-or-less a disaster for the 32-year-old, but at least part of the blame for this season's struggles can be laid at the feet of an offensive line that was terrible much of the season. and it wasn't that long ago that everyone was patting Vick on the back after his phenomenal 2010 season.

What it's going to boil down to for the Ravens is whether they feel that $15 million for Joe Flacco in 2013 gives them a better chance of winning than $8 million and a pick for Smith or less for Vick.

Assuming that the Ravens think of themselves as contenders heading into next year, it's likely that will be the case, just as it seems to be now.

Unless, that is, Flacco's continued struggles cause Baltimore to change their minds.