Joe Flacco trade: Broncos to acquire Baltimore QB, source says

Determining that acquiring a veteran quarterback instead of using a top-10 draft pick on a passer is the quickest way back to AFC West contention, Broncos general manager John Elway made the first bold move of the NFL offseason Wednesday.

In a trade that won’t be completed until March 13, the Broncos have agreed to send one of their two 2019 fourth-round picks to the Baltimore Ravens for quarterback Joe Flacco, a source confirmed.

A month before free agency opens, the Broncos addressed the game’s most important position with a player proven in the regular season and playoffs.

Although the trade is not official, a league official said the Broncos are able to meet with Flacco (with the Ravens’ permission) to have a physical exam and discuss his contract.

Flacco, 34, will replace Case Keenum, who lasted one season. Elway met with Keenum to inform him of the trade and the potential course of action. Keenum is likely to be traded or cut, forcing the Broncos to absorb a $10 million dead salary cap hit.

According to the industry website Over The Cap, Flacco is due to make a base salary of $18.5 million this year, and a source said the Broncos do not plan to re-structure the deal that runs through 2021 (base salaries of $20.25 million in 2020 and $24.25 million in 2021). None are guaranteed.

Flacco, who had 12 touchdowns and six interceptions in nine games (4-5 record) last year, will team with new coach Vic Fangio, offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and quarterback coach T.C. McCartney to improve a Broncos’ attack that has been impotent for four years.

Fangio was a Ravens defensive assistant during Flacco’s first two pro seasons. A source said the Broncos’ coaching staff and personnel department met together to watch game video of quarterbacks and the group decision was to pursue Flacco.

Flacco became available when he sustained a hip injury in the Ravens’ ninth game last year and did not re-claim his job once he was healthy. Baltimore is committed to quarterback Lamar Jackson.

How much does Flacco have left?

“A couple years,” an NFL executive told The Denver Post. “I think he will be a good fit for the Broncos.”

A source said the Broncos and Ravens completed the trade quickly. The Broncos’ urgency to get a trade done was likely because they felt another team was pursuing Flacco.

“Within the last two days,” the source said of when trade talks began. “Seems like a good move for both teams.”

It is a good move for the Ravens, who were able to get a draft pick for Flacco before they released him.

And it appears to be a good move for the Broncos, who will not be boxed into a corner when they draft at No. 10 overall in April. They have their quarterback.

A source said the Broncos believe Flacco is “absolutely a perfect fit for Rich’s offense. Better than (Nick) Foles. Better than the young kids in the draft.”

Two hallmarks of Scangarello’s scheme could be a quarterback comfortable under center (which sets up play-action) and is able and willing to push the football down the field.

“I see an offense that’s willing to take shots,” Scangarello said last month. “(An offense) that’s aggressive but detailed in every way. That takes care of the football, that empowers its players to be the best they can be by putting them in position to be successful.”

Keenum threw 15 interceptions last year (18 touchdowns). In retrospect, Keenum’s fate was sealed last month when Elway told NBC Sports that Keenum is “probably a short-term fix.”

Flacco has 212 career touchdowns and 136 interceptions. Although he has never been selected to the Pro Bowl, he has six years of at least 20 touchdowns and five years of at least 10 wins.

Flacco is 96-67 in the regular season and 10-5 in the postseason. Only New England’s Tom Brady (30) and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger (13) have more playoff wins among active quarterbacks.

From 2010-14, Flacco was 7-3 in the postseason and his 104.1 passer rating was highest among quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts.

Last month, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Flacco’s “value is high. I’m not just saying that. I believe that. Joe can throw the football. … Joe’s ready to roll. You protect Joe, give him some weapons, you’re going to see one of the best quarterbacks in the league.”

The word “rebuilding” is an expletive around the Broncos despite their streak of three consecutive years of missing the playoffs. They could have become creative around the draft to move up and start a rebuild with a rookie quarterback. Instead, they are hoping Flacco will be rejuvenated by the change of teams and he can be a three- or four-year player.

“We always talk about rebuilding, but if I say we’re rebuilding, that sounds like an excuse,” Elway said after firing coach Vance Joseph on Dec. 31. “That’s why I don’t like to use that word. Our standards are still the same. We’re still going to come in. … We’ve got a tough division but we can compete there. We’re going to bust our tails to try to get better, try to get back to where we’re competitive and do it (in 2019).”

That process started by acquiring Flacco.