Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III said he would welcome a return to the Ravens, but he also made clear that his preference would be to become a starting quarterback and "franchise player" once again.
As he cleaned out his locker Jan. 7, the day after the Ravens' season-ending,
23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers
in the first round of the playoffs, Griffin, a pending free agent, said, "I want to be a starter. ... I've worked to do that. I've put in the hours to be able to have that opportunity to go out and compete."
Griffin again expressed thanks to the Ravens organization for bringing him back into the league after a yearlong layoff, as Baltimore signed him a one-year, $1.1 million deal last spring to be Joe Flacco's backup.
But a few weeks after signing Griffin, the Ravens drafted quarterback Lamar Jackson, and it seemed Griffin's time with the Ravens would be short-lived. Instead, the Ravens kept three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for the first time since 2009, and Griffin was viewed as a logical mentor to Jackson as a fellow Heisman Trophy winner who can change the game with his legs as well as his arm.
"They gave me an opportunity to get back in the league and prove that I can play the game at a high level," Griffin said. "I was able to do that in the preseason and in spot duty when I played during the season. I showed that I can still move around and be dynamic, that I'm still fast."
Griffin has acknowledged that being the No. 3 quarterback and game day inactive for much of the year tried the patience of the former No. 2 overall pick. Griffin was active in four of 16 games, the backup when Flacco was sidelined by a hip injury. Griffin filled in for a shaken-up Jackson in parts of two games and played one snap in a third, finishing 2-for-6 for 21 yards.
Now as he prepares to hit free agency, Griffin, who turns 29 next month, must assess his options. Barring injury to Jackson, there's no route to a starting job in Baltimore, although the backup job appears to be open; Flacco's $26.5 million cap hit for next season makes him almost certain to be a cap casualty if he isn't traded first.
Jackson has frequently called Griffin his "Heisman brother" and credited him with helping his transition from the college game to the NFL. For the Ravens, Griffin as the backup quarterback makes a lot of sense, as his skill set would fit well with their Jackson-influenced offensive system that relies heavily on the run and the run-pass option.
And while Griffin said he would welcome a return to Baltimore, he also made clear that his first choice would be to compete for a starting job, and he's probably looking for a multiyear deal this time around.
"At the end of the day it just comes down to me being able to take care of my family," Griffin said. "I want to be a starter. It's not something I just speak. I've worked to do that. I've put in the hours to be able to have that opportunity to go out and compete, and not only just to be a starter again but to be a franchise player for the next 10 or 15 years. So that's definitely a goal of mine.
"But if those opportunities aren't there," he added, "or if they are there and it's not the right opportunity, I do believe in what they're doing here in Baltimore. I love it here, and I have no problem with coming back."
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