Carney Column: Elway swings and misses again with Flacco trade
For a guy who made a living as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway sure does stink at evaluating and choosing quarterbacks for the Broncos. Aside from his coup of Peyton Manning in free agency in 2012, Elway has watched four different starters go under center in recent seasons for the blue and orange, all with very little success.
Now, the Broncos turn to former Baltimore Ravens quarterback and Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco after Elway agreed in principle to a trade on Wednesday for a 2019 fourth round draft pick. The deal can’t officially go through until March 13 when the new league year starts, but the trade is all but finished, that will make Flacco the next starting quarterback for the Broncos once the 2019 season opens.
Much like he has with Mark Sanchez, Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Case Keenum, Elway swung and missed with the Flacco trade. Mike Klis from 9News in Denver said Wednesday that Elway and the Broncos ultimately chose Flacco over Philadelphia’s Nick Foles in a trade, simply because Flacco played under center more than Foles did. That decision had nothing to do with skill set, production or an overall upgrade; it had everything to do with scheme fit.
While the rest of the NFL is playing Madden on an Xbox One, Elway and the Broncos just went thrift shopping for a Nintendo.
Since winning the Super Bowl MVP, Flacco has earned more than $124 million, all while sitting dead last in the NFL among starters over the last six years in yards per attempt, QB rating and TD-INT ratio. Along with his below average stats as a starter, Flacco brings with him hip and back injuries at age 34 that have caused him to miss 13 games over the past four seasons. He’s a statue in the pocket that rarely pushes the ball down the field this late in his career, and simply can’t avoid pressure. That could be problematic behind Denver’s offense line that has right tackle Jared Veldheer and center Matt Paradis on the free agent market, and starting guard Ronald Leary coming back from a torn Achilles. Mike Munchak is an excellent offensive line coach, but he has his hands full, especially now that Elway went out and got a quarterback with zero mobility.
Any other quarterback not named Joe Flacco with that kind of resume would be laughed at by Broncos Country, but because Flacco tormented Denver in the playoffs throughout his career Broncos fans seem to be lauding the move. This isn’t the early 2010s. It’s 2019 and Flacco is a shell of his former self, and lost his starting job to a quarterback known more for his running ability than his arm.
The thing that gets overlooked with Flacco is the amount of money coming with him to Denver. After paying Keenum a heavy amount of money in free agency last season, Elway now has Flacco on the books for more than $40 million over the next two seasons, should he remain on the Broncos. Don’t expect Flacco to agree to a restructure of his deal either. With Flacco in the fold, the Broncos are paying Keenum and Flacco at least $25 million next season, even if Keenum is traded, since he has $7 million guaranteed with the club.
Instead of standing pat at quarterback and running it back with Keenum for another year and ultimately drafting someone like Missouri’s Drew Lock at No. 10 overall, Elway panicked and traded for a quarterback who’s best days were nearly a half decade behind him. Elway talks about Flacco’s ability to win from the pocket, but in today’s game a quarterback needs to be able to buy time with his feet to extend plays. Flacco simply can’t do that, and quite honestly was never really able to.
This move leads me to believe that Elway thinks the Broncos are just a quarterback away from contending again, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. In a division that appears set to be ruled by Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes for the next decade, as well as the star-studded Chargers still in commission, Elway would have been better off holding onto his fourth round pick this spring and adding a young player with upside, not an aging 34-year-old quarterback with very little left to give.
The coaching staff can talk all they want about how Flacco is a perfect fit for the new West Coast offense that the Broncos will run in 2019. He’s not an upgrade at all over Keenum statistically, aside from wins. Making a lateral move for a quarterback like Flacco is poor asset management, which has become an issue with Elway in recent years.
Much like his former baseball playing days, Elway swung and missed at the quarterback position once again.
Should this move ultimately take the Broncos out of the running for a quarterback at the top of the first round come late April, Elway is going to have much more explaining to do.
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. He believes that Joe Flacco is, in fact, not elite, and is a risk that wasn’t worth taking for John Elway and the Broncos. You can reach Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @JCarney_Sports, to discuss your stance on Flacco becoming a Bronco.