DENVER — Looking to upgrade their quarterback position with a longer-term solution, the Broncos have agreed to trade for Baltimore veteran Joe Flacco, according to multiple sources.
Case Keenum is out after one forgettable season. And Flacco, who delivered one of the Broncos’ most painful losses in the 2012 playoffs, is heading to Denver, barring any snags.
The trade cannot completed until the first day of the league year on March 13. The deal will likely be in exchange for a fourth-round pick in this year's draft, and they have an extra one after acquiring one from Houston for receiver Demaryius Thomas. Flacco, a former Super Bowl MVP, lost his starting job to rookie Lamar Jackson last season, leaving his future in doubt in Baltimore. He threw 12 touchdowns and six interceptions a year ago before a right hip injury, and Jackson’s emerge supplanted him.
While it was thought the 34-year-old Flacco would rework his contract to facilitate the deal, that won't be necessary, per sources. His $18.5 million salary ranks 21st among quarterbacks in cap hits. He has $63 million remaining over the next three years, but only 2019 is guaranteed. So the Broncos believe they have traded Thomas for Flacco, and upgraded over Keenum. The Broncos moved quickly over the past few days because another team was also pursuing Flacco. This doesn't preclude the Broncos from taking a quarterback in the draft, but it allows Denver to remain open-minded, particularly if it believes 2020 is a better quarterback draft class.
Why Flacco? Well if you wanted the Broncos to go young and mobile, he is not that. He is a proven pocket passer, Elway's preference, especially in the postseason. And this move suggests Elway remains more tightly focused on winning now -- or over the next three years -- than rebuilding. Flacco is entering his 12th season. He hasn't thrown more than 20 touchdown passes since 2014. However, he has played his best when it matters most. He is 10-5 in the playoffs, ranking third in postseason victories among active quarterbacks behind Tom Brady (30) and Ben Roethlisberger (13). And Flacco, last year nothwithstanding, is durable. He has started all 16 games in nine of his 11 seasons. Also, Broncos coach Vic Fangio, who has coached against Flacco and has strong contacts in the Ravens organization, was involved in the discussions and was on board with bringing in the veteran.
Denver still owes Keenum a guaranteed $7 million this season. His time appeared scarce after general manager John Elway called him a “short-term fix” this offseason. The Broncos can keep Keenum as the backup, or more likely, trade or release him. He could have a trade market, perhaps to the New York Giants where he worked well with coach Pat Shurmur in Minnesota. Elway spoke with Keenum on Wednesday morning about the deal and possible scenarios going forward.
Flacco drew praise for how he handled his demotion in Baltimore, leaving Ravens coach John Harbaugh to insist Flacco could still help another team moving forward. He is known for his big arm. Flacco played well in a win over the Broncos last season, completing 25 of 40 for 277 yards and one touchdown.
The Broncos are seeking to end a three-year playoff drought. It's difficult to win without a solid performance from the league's most important position. Tuesday, Elway took another spin at landing the right guy since Peyton Manning walked out of the building.