Joe Flacco

Broncos’ John Elway Talks Retirement, Flacco, Rookies

Things haven’t necessarily gone as planned for the Broncos since they won the Super Bowl during the 2015 campaign. The organization hasn’t made the postseason in three years, and they’ve combined for only 11 wins over the past two seasons.

Fortunately, there’s reason for optimism. The Broncos got some solid production from their 2018 draft class, including defensive end Bradley Chubb, wideout Courtland Sutton, and running back Royce Freeman. The front office loaded up in talent once again during the 2019 draft, and they also added a number of veterans with the hope of making the postseason.

SI.com’s Albert Breer recently sat down with general manager and president of football operations John Elway to discuss his future in the NFL, his team-building philosophy, and his team’s chances in 2019. The whole article is worth reading, but we’ve pulled out some of the notable soundbites below:

On whether he’s thought about retiring:

“You know, I haven’t. I’ve got two and a half years left on my contract, I’m getting close to 60, which is hard to believe. At that point in time, you start to kind of look at it day-to-day and week-to-week. I’m still enjoying what I’m doing. I want to be able to put a quality product on the field and compete for a championship. I think we’re headed in that direction. I’m excited about Vic [Fangio].

“So we’ll take it a year at a time and see how it goes.”

On the Broncos ability to mix young players with veterans:

“You’re building with youth, but also trying to be competitive in the year that you’re in. If you had the success that we had back in 2013, ’14, ’15, it’s hard to keep the whole band together—and then you lose the quarterback. Our goal is always to be competitive, and improve, and add youth to that too. That’s always the tough thing to do, while you try to get the right mentality that you better win football games.”

On the acquisition of quarterback Joe Flacco:

“That position is so important, not just in the player you have there, but also the confidence it adds to the rest of your team. And I think our players know, the young guys as well as the veterans, that [Flacco] has been in battles, he’s won a championship, and he know what it takes. So just the confidence that the rest of the team has in that position and the player that’s playing that position is extremely important.

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Latest On Broncos’ QB Situation

The Broncos traded for veteran QB Joe Flacco in February with the clear intention of having him serve as their starting signal-caller for at least the 2019 season. But given the state of Denver’s quarterback situation since Peyton Manning retired, GM John Elway hedged his bets in a big way, drafting talented but raw prospect Drew Lock in the second round of this year’s draft and handing a $136K guarantee to UDFA Brett Rypien.

Mike Klis of 9News.com examined the status of the Broncos’ QB depth chart as we inch closer to training camp, and to no one’s surprise, Flacco is the unquestioned starter. His performance during early Broncos practices this year made Elway comfortable enough to eschew a QB prospect in the first round of the draft, and despite some speculation that Lock could push Flacco for the starting job at some point in 2019, Klis says the long-time Raven will be Denver’s one and only quarterback this season, provided he stays healthy. The fact that Flacco has looked his best when playing in an offense similar to the one that new OC Rich Scangarello runs will certainly help his cause, and he built on his strong work early in the offseason by continuing to play well throughout OTAs and minicamp.

Klis notes that Lock has shown flashes of his potential, but his decision-making and ability to read defenses still need a great deal of refinement, and the Missouri product will have a legitimate battle with Kevin Hogan for the club’s backup job. Hogan has started just one game in his professional career, but he apparently showed enough in practice in 2018 for Denver to re-sign him this offseason. However, if Lock wins the No. 2 spot, then Hogan will likely be cut, with the third-string job going to Rypien. If Lock struggles and cedes the backup role to Hogan, then Rypien may be forced onto the practice squad, where he could be poached by another team.

The AFC West looks as if it will be a highly-competitive division in 2019, and Denver will not have an easy road back to the playoffs after a three-year absence. But if Lock shows significant improvement and can become a real candidate to start in 2020, that would be a decent consolation prize.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Poll: Which Team’s New QB Will Have Best Season?

While this offseason did not bring quite the same level of quarterback movement 2018’s did, a handful of teams will deploy new starters. Draft choices, trade acquisitions and free agent signings will be given the keys to offenses that struggled last season.

The Broncos, Cardinals, Dolphins, Jaguars and Redskins made moves to fortify their quarterback jobs. Which team’s investment will work out best?

Denver will use a different starting quarterback for the third straight year. Joe Flacco is set to be the Broncos’ fourth starter since Peyton Manning‘s retirement. While his QBR figure (58.7) was better than any the former Ravens starter had posted since a quality 2014 season, Flacco still ranked 20th in that metric last season. Having never made a Pro Bowl and fresh off back-to-back years featuring injury trouble, with a back problem limiting him during the 2017 offseason and a hip injury beginning the Lamar Jackson era, the 34-year-old starter will try to revive his career in Denver. Flacco, though, is the most accomplished quarterback the Broncos have employed since Manning.

The other surefire veteran starter acquired this year, Foles will have his first chance to be a team’s unquestioned first-stringer since 2015. The 30-year-old flourished in his second Philadelphia stint, submitting an all-time postseason run in 2017 and helping the Eagles back to the playoffs last season. A 2013 Pro Bowler, Foles will take over a Jaguars team that does not possess the kind of aerial weaponry recent Eagles rosters did. Jacksonville is in line to have Marqise Lee back from a torn ACL, but the team’s wideouts and tight ends will place additional emphasis on Foles living up to his contract. With the Rams in 2015, Foles threw seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions before being benched.

Kyler Murray represents the other locked-in starter added this offseason. The electric one-year Oklahoma starter accomplished about as much as a college passer can in a single season, turning in Division I-FBS’ second-ever 4,000-1,000 season en route to Heisman Trophy honors. Working with Kliff Kingsbury, Larry Fitzgerald and a host of young wide receivers, Murray is the centerpiece of one of the most daring experiments an NFL team has attempted.

The Cardinals turned the keys over to a sub-.500 college coach and a 5-foot-10 signal-caller — the first sub-6-foot passer to be chosen in Round 1. Arizona trotted out the league’s worst scoring and total offense last season, however, and sported a skeleton-crew offensive line by year’s end. The Cards added new starters Marcus Gilbert and J.R. Sweezy up front. Due to the lack of precedent behind this move, it is hard to tell how Murray will fare. But the unique talent has opened as Las Vegas’ offensive rookie of the year favorite.

Washington and Miami have not committed to a starting quarterback yet, but it is fairly safe to project Dwayne Haskins and Josh Rosen will see extensive time. While Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick could log starts, with the latter possibly even on track to do so, the Redskins have liked what their first-round pick has done so far and the Dolphins will need to see Rosen in games to help determine if they will consider a first-round QB in 2020. On the heels of a 50-touchdown pass season, the Ohio State product sits second in offensive rookie of the year odds. Although only eight passers have won this award since 1957, seven such instances have occurred since 2004.

Both Daniel Jones and Drew Lock could factor into their respective teams’ mixes later in the season. Of the 13 first-round QBs taken over the past four years, only Patrick Mahomes and Paxton Lynch were not promoted to the starting role as rookies. (Though, Eli Manning is not your typical stopgap.) Lock was projected by most as a first-rounder, and Flacco ceded his role to the No. 32 overall pick last year. So the 12th-year veteran’s grip on Denver’s job should be considered tenuous.

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

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West Notes: 49ers, Hawks, Broncos, Chiefs

Jason Verrett signed a one-year, $3MM deal with the 49ers this offseason, but the ex-Chargers cornerback says he actually contemplated retirement before landing in San Francisco, per SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link). Verrett, who was in a “dark place” while deciding on his NFL future, has only played in five total games over the past three seasons, with various injuries — including a torn ACL and a ruptured Achilles — ending his campaigns. The 49ers ranked 26th in defensive DVOA against No. 2 wideouts in 2018, so they can use all they help they can get opposite Richard Sherman. Verrett, an excellent corner when healthy, is expected to compete with Ahkello Witherspoon and Tarvarius Moore for the job.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Fullback Nick Bellore‘s contract with the Seahawks is worth $2.23MM over two years, tweets Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. Bellore will receive $600K guaranteed, including a $300K signing bonus and a $300K 2019 base salary guarantee. A linebacker who played primarily on special teams for the first seven years of his NFL career, Bellore converted to the offensive side of the ball last summer. The 30-year-old appeared in 14 games for the Lions in 2018, playing 118 snaps on offense and 238 on special teams. Seattle used a fullback on only 8% of its plays last season.
  • New Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco will take all the first-team reps at organized team activities, head coach Vic Fangio told reporters, including Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). That’s perhaps unsurprising, as Flacco is fully expected to be Denver’s starter despite the club selecting Missouri’s Drew Lock in the second round. Indeed, Flacco’s performance in early Broncos practices dissuaded general manager John Elway from drafting a signal-caller on Day 1 of the draft. Lock, veteran Kevin Hogan, and undrafted free agent Brett Rypien will compete to become Denver’s second and third quarterback.
  • The Seahawks gave significant signing bonuses to several of their undrafted collegiate free agents, as Henderson tweets. Quarterback Taryn Christion, receiver Terry Wright, and cornerbacks Derrek Thomas and Davante Davis each received a $10K bonus. As Henderson notes, though, that level of guarantee doesn’t necessarily ensure a roster spot. In 2018, Seattle gave receiver Ka’Raun White a $14K bonus but cut him after rookie minicamp. Click on Henderson’s tweet to see the full list of the Seahawks’ UDFA signing bonuses.
  • Free agent offensive tackle Dieugot Joseph is meeting with the Chiefs today, reports Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). An undrafted free agent out of Florida International University in 2017, Joseph has spent time with the Bears, Ravens, Vikings, and Jets but has yet to appear in an NFL game.

AFC Notes: Jets, Raiders, Broncos, Hardman

During the hours leading up to the draft’s second night, the Jets were calling teams — the Seahawks, Colts and others — about trading way up into the second round. That did not end up happening. The Jets, who traded their Round 2 pick to the Colts last year for the right to move up to draft Sam Darnold, made the calls because of a desire to add one of the high-end cornerbacks available to start Day 2, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports. Gang Green sought to jump into the top five of the second round, per Mehta, but they could not come to terms on a deal. Such a jump — from No. 68 into the 30s — would have required a significant draft capital subtraction. The Jets also had a deal with the Eagles to make a less costly move — up to No. 57 — to draft Mecole Hardman, but the Chiefs beat them to it. Corners Byron Murphy, Rock Ya-Sin, Sean Bunting and Trayvon Mullen all went off the board in the first eight picks Friday.

At corner, the Jets have 2018 free agent signing Trumaine Johnson and 2019 addition Brian Poole. As of now, they may be asking Darryl Roberts to be a starter. With no draft picks spent on the position, the Jets may still be on the lookout for help here.

Here is the latest post-draft news from the AFC:

  • The Raiders hoped to trade down from their No. 4 slot, but no calls came, Peter King of NBC Sports notes. Just about every high-end prospect was connected to the Raiders during the pre-draft process, but the team instead went with what most perceived as a bit of a reach in Clelin Ferrell. However, taking the Clemson talent at No. 4 was the team’s backup plan.
  • Joe Flacco‘s work in the early days of the Broncos‘ offseason program dissuaded John Elway from selecting a quarterback at No. 10 overall, something many mock drafts had the Broncos doing. “What made that decision is, Joe is fitting really well with what we want to do offensively, and he looked great in our minicamp last week,” Elway said Thursday, via King. “He really put on a throwing exhibition last week in camp. I truly think we’ve got a guy coming into his prime.” Of course, less than 24 hours later, Drew Lock was a Bronco. Both King and SI.com’s Albert Breer report the Mizzou prospect was the top passer on Denver’s board, with Breer adding that Elway continually brought up Lock in pre-draft meetings, pointing further to the potential value investment at No. 42.
  • As for what would have happened if the Broncos did not receive a strong Steelers offer for No. 10? Denver would have a new starting inside linebacker, with King writing the Broncos would have taken Devin Bush and addressed their offensive needs later.
  • While the Chiefs‘ Hardman pick looks like a Tyreek Hill emergency replacement, and was chosen three rounds ahead of when the polarizing star was taken three years ago, the team views the Georgia speedster as a cross between Hill and gadget-type weapon De’Anthony Thomas — both in terms of role and talent, Breer writes.
  • Of their six 2019 picks, the Jets used one on an offensive lineman — third-round tackle Chuma Edoga. Gang Green entered free agency with plenty of needs up front. While All-Pro Kelechi Osemele is now slotted in as one of the Jets’ first-string guards, Tom Compton represented the team’s only other veteran addition. Although, Jonotthan Harrison re-signed and appears to be a firm option to start, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes. The Jets were eyeing interior lineman Connor McGovern in Round 3, per Vacchiano, but the Cowboys beat them to him. As of now, Harrison — a career part-time starter with the Colts who ended last season as the Jets’ top center — is first in line to snap.

Joe Flacco Passes Broncos Physical

Last week’s trade agreement between the Broncos and Ravens, which will send Joe Flacco to Denver and the better of the Broncos’ two fourth-round picks to Baltimore, looks set to go through.

Flacco traveled to Denver and passed a physical conducted by the Broncos, Albert Breer of SI.com reports.

Although Flacco has started 16 games in nine of his 11 seasons, he has battled a few injuries in recent years. Following his torn ACL in 2015, Flacco encountered back trouble during the 2017 offseason. Last season, a hip injury sidelined him for weeks and eventually led to Lamar Jackson stepping in and, ultimately, bringing setting up last week’s trade.

No trade can become official until the 2019 league year begins on March 13. Flacco will then be headed to the Broncos, where he stands to become the team’s fourth Week 1 starting quarterback in the past five seasons — following Peyton Manning, Trevor Siemian and Case Keenum. Denver’s previous starter remains on the roster, but the Broncos are planning to trade or, more likely, cut the soon-to-be 31-year-old Keenum.

Now 34, Flacco will play on an $18.5MM salary next season. He is not expected to redo his through-2021 contract, which contains no more guaranteed money. The Ravens will eat $16MM in dead money once the trade goes through.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Notes: Harris, Flacco, LBs, Leary

With Aqib Talib having been traded and Bradley Roby likely to leave Denver as a free agent, the Broncos have work to do to repair their once-formidable cornerback corps. However, the third player from the team’s longtime trio may be in position to sign a third contract soon. Chris Harris is entering a contract year, and with the Broncos having no other foundational pieces at this position, it would seemingly behoove them to enter into extension talks with their versatile All-Pro. Harris has said he is open to signing a third Broncos contract, and Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post writes the 29-year-old defender will be on the 2019 team, as opposed to being shopped around, and is a likely target for an extension. One of this era’s premier corners, Harris nonetheless has a manageable cap number this season ($8.77MM), so an extension would stand to be more about keeping him in the fold than reducing his 2019 figure.

Denver is also expected to let Tramaine Brock walk, so cornerback — for the first time since the Broncos swapped out Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Talib and Roby five years ago — is a major need for this franchise.

Here is the latest from Denver, shifting to its quarterback decision:

  • Joe Flacco will be the fourth Broncos Week 1 starting quarterback in the past five seasons, and thus far the reaction to Denver’s move has skewed negative. But multiple executives viewed this as potentially a short-term gain, with O’Halloran noting one called this a solid move for both the Broncos and Ravens and another seeing the 34-year-old passer having multiple good years left. One defensive assistant, however, disagreed, viewing the veteran as having little quality football left. Flacco has not ranked above 19th in QBR since the 2014 season, when he was ninth. The Broncos will attempt to place him in a similar offense to the Gary Kubiak-coordinated attack that unleashed Flacco five years ago, but with so much time passing, it’s obviously no guarantee Flacco can return to form.
  • The Broncos prioritized Brandon Marshall over Danny Trevathan three years ago, in extending the former and letting the latter walk as a free agent. But in cutting Marshall this week, the Broncos jettisoned their top coverage linebacker. They are expected to look for help on this front in the draft, Mike Klis of 9News notes. Denver still has plus run defender Todd Davis and 2018 fourth-rounder Josey Jewell, but Klis writes the team will look for a rangier addition to complement its incumbents.
  • Offensive line will also be a need for the Broncos, with free agent center Matt Paradis‘ status up in the air. But one member is in line to return. Ronald Leary will not be ready to pass a physical by March 17, Klis tweets. This would fully guarantee $5.35MM of the guard’s $8.1MM salary. Unless the Broncos want to eat a reasonable amount of dead money, as they did upon releasing Menelik Watson last year, Leary can be expected back. The 29-year-old guard has played well in Denver but finished the past two seasons on IR, a 2018 Achilles injury shelving him after seven games.

Redskins Were Interested In Joe Flacco

The Redskins may have a chance to contend for a playoff spot in 2019, but they will need a legitimate QB to get them there. Alex Smith is expected to miss the entire season (and may never play again), and while the club could re-sign Colt McCoy, it seems unlikely that McCoy can lead a playoff push.

To that end, Washington did speak with the Ravens about a potential trade for Joe Flacco before Baltimore agreed to trade Flacco to the Broncos, per Troy Renck of Denver 7 (via Twitter). Renck says that the trade with the Broncos came together quickly because of Washington’s involvement.

John Keim of ESPN.com, though, is skeptical. He concedes that the Redskins did their due diligence on Flacco, and will continue to do their due diligence on QBs on the free agent and trade markets, but the team simply could not afford to absorb Flacco’s contract since they already have so much money committed to Smith. And it’s not at though other clubs aren’t aware of Washington’s difficult cap situation, so Keim thinks it unlikely that the Broncos were worried about the Redskins’ involvement in the Flacco sweepstakes (Twitter link).

Indeed, Keim tweets that he would be surprised if the Redskins could swing a deal for any high-priced QB like Flacco or Nick Foles. Speculatively, the team could make a play for Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor, or try to pry away restricted free agent Nate Sudfeld from the rival Eagles, but those moves would not engender a ton of excitement. Depending on how they feel about the 2019 crop of college passers, the Redskins could draft a rookie signal-caller, though they may have to trade up in the first round to get one of the top prospects.

Potential cap casualties like Case Keenum and A.J. McCarron may also be in play for Washington.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos Notes: Flacco, Draft, Marshall

The Broncos may have acquired veteran signal-caller Joe Flacco earlier this week, but that doesn’t mean the organization won’t draft a quarterback in this year’s draft. A Broncos source told Matt Miller of Bleacher Report that the team wouldn’t balk at taking one of the top quarterback prospects.

“We’re going to take the best player on our board when the pick comes up,” the source said. “Period.”

Of course, that quote indicates that the team won’t specifically target a quarterback, but it also shows that the team will be flexible heading into the draft. As Miller notes, the Broncos have been connected to Missouri quarterback Drew Lock, although the prospect isn’t projected to be a top-10 pick (Denver’s slotted in at the 10th-overall pick).

Let’s check out some more notes out of Denver…

  • The Broncos will be searching for some help at cornerback this offseason, according to ESPN’s Jeff LegwoldBradley RobyTramaine Brock and Jamar Taylor are all set to hit free agency, meaning the team will need to search for someone to play opposite Chris Harris. The veteran defensive back recognizes that his team will be seeking reinforcement in the secondary, and he’s confident that new head coach Vic Fangio will help to revitalize the entire unit. “It’s like I’ve said, I think we just haven’t evolved here,” Harris said. “You know, after the Super Bowl [in 2016], it’s like we kind of just got stagnant. We haven’t evolved. We’ve got to evolve with everything … get better as players, all of us. I just think this past year we were kind of behind.”
  • We learned yesterday that the Broncos weren’t going to be picking up linebacker Brandon Marshall‘s option, making him a free agent. The 29-year-old emerged as a starting-caliber player during his tenure in Denver, and he’s been productive in both a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme. Marshall believes that versatility will help him as he searches for his next gig. “I think that’s going to help me a lot (in free agency),” he told Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post. “I was in a 4-3 my first year starting in Denver and playing a 3-4 will let teams know I can do it all.”
  • Back to Flacco, we heard earlier this week that the team doesn’t intend to re-work the veteran’s contract. The 34-year-old is under contract in each of the next three seasons at base salaries of $18.5MM, $20.25MM, and $24.25MM, although none of that money is guaranteed.

South Notes: Flacco, Texans, Bucs, Panthers

In agreeing to trade for Joe Flacco, the Broncos made an early move to attempt to upgrade at quarterback. As bad as things have gone at quarterback for the Broncos over the past three years, the Jaguars have experienced more trouble. The Jags were mentioned as a Flacco suitor earlier this offseason, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets the team continued to have interest until the Broncos pulled the trigger. However, Denver’s offer of a fourth-round pick was the best proposal Baltimore received, La Canfora adds. This was the Broncos’ fourth-round pick (No. 106), not the selection they acquired from the Texans in exchange for Demaryius Thomas (No. 118).

Shifting to non-Flacco matters, here is the latest from the South divisions:

  • Thomas’ Texans tenure did not last long, with the team predictably balking on the former Pro Bowl wide receiver’s lofty 2019 salary. But with the Texans making the move to release the 31-year-old wideout while he is still recovering from a severe Achilles injury, Thomas is in line to receive injury protection, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com tweets. Article 45 of the CBA stipulates Thomas would stand to receive $1.2MM from the Texans, reducing the franchise’s cap savings on this move from $14MM to $12.8MM. Nevertheless, Thomas’ salary coming off the Texans’ books increases their cap space to nearly $76MM.
  • Although Pro Football Focus had not viewed Donovan Smith as an upper-echelon tackle, the Buccaneersfront office has held him in higher regard. Even as the team shifts to Bruce Arians calling the shots on the sideline, keeping Smith off the market may still be on the table. Indications point to the Bucs placing the franchise tag on Smith if no deal can be reached before then, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The 2019 tag for offensive linemen is expected to come in at just more than $14MM. Were Smith to reach the market, he could command a lucrative deal. Although, with only three tackles making $14MM per year, it would be a stretch for the Bucs’ four-year left tackle starter to exceed that total — the annual offensive line sellers’ market notwithstanding.
  • Ben Jacobsearly-offseason release will not lead to the longtime special-teamer catching on elsewhere. The former Panthers linebacker will instead take a staff position with Carolina, the franchise announced. Jacobs is the Panthers’ new assistant special teams coach. Jacobs, 30, spent six years with the Panthers, serving as a core member of Carolina’s ST units for most of that time. He will work under fellow former Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn.
  • The Panthers will be the latest team to bring in a game management coach. Sam Mills III, son of the former Panthers and Saints linebacker, will begin working in this role, the team announced. A 15th-year Panthers staffer, Mills will retain his defensive line coach title while helping Ron Rivera on game days with replay challenges, clock management and other situational elements.