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Glenn Clark: Ravens Should Start Lamar Jackson In 2018

April 30, 2018
So we're a few days removed from it happening now. 

I still can't fathom that the Baltimore Ravens spent a first-round pick on a quarterback during the 2018 NFL Draft and it still doesn't matter because it isn't changing. 

As I realized the Ravens were obviously trading back in to the first round because they wanted to address the quarterback position some thing struck me. Whatever you think about Joe Flacco or Lamar Jackson, there's absolutely no doubt whatsoever who should be the team's starting quarterback to begin the 2018 season. 

The answer of course is the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner and 32th overall draft pick. There's no logical reason why Lamar Jackson shouldn't immediately be the team's starting quarterback. 

Before you can scream, "Get a load of the hot take on this guy," you need to spend some time thinking about this. There are a number of reasons why this should be a rather simple choice. 

The team doesn't owe Flacco anything, despite the success it's enjoyed with him (which the Ravens have proven by regularly not bothering to give him dynamic wide receivers to work with). 

Some will suggest that if Flacco plays well this season the Ravens would then be able to trade him at the end of the year, but that's simply not realistic. Flacco's deal still has three years remaining, even after the 2018 season. With cap figures of $26.5 million in 2019, $28.25 million in 2020 and $24.25 million in 2021; the possibility of actually being able to find a team willing to take on such money in a trade is more unlikely than finding someone who doesn't have any questions after seeing "Infinity War" this weekend. 

It's not necessarily impossible -- the Washington Redskins gave up a third-round pick for an older quarterback (Alex Smith) who has never reached or won a Super Bowl, albeit one whose performance was far better in recent years than Flacco's. Even if Flacco were to play well this year, his cap figures are roughly six to eight million dollars more over the 2019-2021 stretch than Smith's. 

And if the Ravens believed Flacco was capable of playing well this season, why exactly did they spend a first-round pick (or essentially two second-rounds picks because of the trade) on a quarterback? The trade scenario just doesn't seem reasonable and certainly not reasonable enough that it should be the reason to play Flacco this season. 

Another argument for playing the veteran would be that it gives the team its best chance to win the Super Bowl. That may be true, but also … what? This roster still seriously lacks the type of game-changing talent necessary to compete for a Super Bowl. Perhaps Jackson might one day become that type of player, but he wouldn't be in this scenario. 

While the team has overhauled its pass catching corps, only one (wide receiver Michael Crabtree) has ever been consistently good at the NFL level. The team is hoping that rookie tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews can prove to be game-changers as well, but their presence gives Las Vegas just enough confidence to predict the team to win … eight games. That seems about right. 

As a franchise, the Ravens couldn't possibly say they don't believe they can win games. Hell, even Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter can't admit his team isn't really trying to win games and … what's that? The Marlins have won more games the Orioles? My apologies, I'm going to awkwardly abandon this joke halfway through. 

The point is that no team can ever admit it's not trying to win games. But it's hard to argue that Flacco -- even if he plays better than he did while playing hurt without a preseason last year -- has a realistic chance of winning a Super Bowl this year. And if he doesn't play at a higher level than that, is it even a sure thing that he gives the Ravens a better chance of accomplishing that than Jackson? 

Another potential argument for playing Flacco is that if Jackson were to play and struggle, it could damage his psyche and have long-term effects on his development as an NFL quarterback. But if you're so worried about a quarterback having their psyche damaged by struggling this season, was that quarterback ever worth taking in the first round of the draft? 

Realistically, Jackson is likely going to end up taking over in 2019 with a team that will have $16 million of dead cap space sunk into a quarterback it released, no dynamic young wide receivers on the roster and already down a second-round pick that could have been used to acquire such a player. Why would the Ravens want to add in the additional trouble of potentially having Jackson go through growing pains that are likely to occur in his first year as a starter at that point? 

Moreover, the Ravens still haven't committed to the coaching staff that chose Jackson long-term, a staff that apparently played a role in bringing Jackson to Baltimore. If the Ravens don't play Jackson this season, are they obligated to keep the staff around for 2019 to get a chance to work with him? And then what if they find out their staff actually doesn't know how to best work with Jackson's unique skill set? Now they're two years into Jackson's initial contract and looking for a new staff that can hopefully make things work quickly because they need to decide before his fourth season whether they want to pick up his fifth year option or go back to the drawing board at the position. 

Again, I wouldn't have done this. But the Ravens did. They decided who their next quarterback will be, and there's just no reason not to rip the band-aid off and make it happen now. 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Louisville Athletics