By Eric Schmidt

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is playing the final season of his rookie contract and could be heading towards possible free agency in the offseason. The Ravens signal caller has been the Ravens starting quarterback since he was selected 18th overall in the first-round of the 2008 NFL Draft. The mention of Flacco’s name will spark debate about whether or not he should be considered an elite quarterback, but the Baltimore Ravens must pay Joe Flacco in the offseason and give him a new contract.

Since becoming the Baltimore starter, Flacco and the Ravens have posted a 53-24 record to date, not many teams in the NFL can boast that record in the last five seasons. Yes, the Ravens team has been predicated on bone-crushing defensive play but Flacco has been a solid signal caller. He has never thrown more than 12 interceptions in a season, turnovers can ruin a team.His best season came in 2010 when he threw for 3,622 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Flacco has never missed a game in his career. Consistency is key in the NFL, simply look at the records of teams with constant turnover at the quarterback position. Arizona perhaps.

The Delaware product has been the subject of controversy during his career. He drew ire in the offseason by proclaiming himself as an elite quarterback. Whether he is or not, I like the temperament of Flacco. What do you want your team’s starting quarterback to say? ‘I suck’

This afternoon, Flacco’s career received it’s biggest boost ever. The Ravens fired offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Cameron has drawn more criticism from Ravens fans than Flacco over the last several years because of his ultra-conservative play calling and strange use of RB Ray Rice. Former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell will assume the offensive coordinator role with the Ravens for the remainder of the season. Cameron has been the only offensive coordinator Flacco has ever worked under, as both joined the Ravens in 2008.

Flacco has been maddeningly inconsistent during his career, and this season is no different. In the last six weeks, Flacco has thrown for 153, 341, 164, 355, 188 and 182 yards respectively. Is this a fault of Flacco, a fault of the play calling or a combination of both?

After the Ravens win over the Houston Texans last year in the playoffs, defensive teammate S Ed Reed was highly critical of Flacco’s lackluster performance. Speaking to SiriusXM The Blitz, Reed said, “Joe was kind of rattled a little bit by that defense. They had a lot of guys in the box on him and they were giving it to him. I think a couple of times he needed to get rid of the ball. It didn’t look like he had a hold on the offense.”

Flacco finished the game, a pedestrian 14 of 27 for 176 yards but had two touchdowns. Reed should know what an oppressive defense can do to opposing quarterbacks. The Texans defense has been a dominant force in recent years and was playing at a very high level in the playoffs last season. The Ravens managed a win and went on the AFC Championship game.

Flacco’s performance in the Championship game was exceptional. He outplayed future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady and was a dropped pass away from going to the Super Bowl.

So, why should the Ravens pay Joe Flacco? Two reasons. First, he’ll have a new offensive coordinator to work with next season. Second, what are the Ravens options?

A new offensive coordinator could make all the difference in the world for Flacco. Have you seen what Dirk Koetter has done with Matt Ryan in Atlanta? Ryan, ironically, also in his contract year, is posting career numbers. Flacco has one of the best running backs in the league in his backfield, Ray Rice. Better utilization of Rice in the offense will open up some many other aspects of the Ravens gameplan. Two weeks ago against the Steelers, Rice touched the ball just 12 times. It is well documented as to the Ravens record when Rice touches the ball 20 times.

Just what are the Ravens other options at quarterback? The Atlanta Falcons aren’t going to allow Matt Ryan to hit free agency. The 2013 NFL Draft is not as loaded with quarterback prospects as the 2012 draft was. Free agency looks sparse this season. Alex Smith and Michael Vick are rumored to be available thru trade or perhaps will be released outright, but are they really an option?

Flacco is not worthy of Manning or Brady-esque numbers in a new contract, but he’s certainly worth more than a Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel type deal. The Ravens need to get going on a new contract as soon as the season is over, or at the very least, place the franchise tag on Flacco in order to prevent him from hitting the free agent market. Ravens fans might not appreciate Flacco but fans of the Chiefs, Cardinals, Jaguars and Bills would love to see him under center for their teams.






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