OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Joe Flacco just turned 33, dealt with injuries the past couple of years and statistically ranked among the worst quarterbacks since winning a Super Bowl.
The Baltimore Ravens are financially committed to Flacco for at least two more seasons, and coach John Harbaugh said at the end of the season that the team would discuss drafting a quarterback this year.
But owner Steve Bisciotti scoffed at the suggestion that the Ravens are nearing the end of the line with Flacco.
"I think that you can think about life after Joe, but most of the franchise quarterbacks ... I don't know of any franchise quarterbacks that are retiring at 33, 34, 35 anymore -- none of them," Bisciotti said. "Eli [Manning] and Ben [Roethlisberger] and our friend up in New England [Tom Brady], they're all staying [at] 35, 36, 37 -- Drew Brees. So no, that's not really something that we're worried about right now. We've got bigger fish to fry, I guess."
Based on Bisciotti's comments, this would rule out Baltimore taking a quarterback in the first round and likely the second. Bisciotti insinuated that Flacco will be their quarterback for the foreseeable future despite Flacco producing at what Bisciotti described as "sub-standard" levels.
Since being the Super Bowl MVP, Flacco has thrown 98 touchdowns and 74 interceptions over the past five seasons for a 82.1 passer rating, which ranks No. 36 in the NFL. Injuries have affected Flacco's effectiveness. He suffered a significant knee injury in November 2015 (which sidelined him for the final six games as well as all of the offseason spring workouts in 2016) and dealt with a herniated disc last year (which kept him out for all of training camp and the preseason games).
"We had Joe throwing a week before the regular-season game [last season], and I think that we were conservative," said Bisciotti, who is the first person to characterize Flacco's injury as a herniated disc. "If you want to call it boring, we probably were boring. Part of that was protecting Joe and getting the ball out quickly, and it showed up in some pretty ugly offensive numbers. But, what we saw in him when our offensive line solidified and he got more comfortable in the pocket. … Obviously, if we could recreate the last half of the season, then I think we would maybe still be playing. We're a long way off to have to worry about Joe, I think."
In the first nine games last season, Flacco averaged 172.3 yards passing, throwing eight touchdowns and nine interceptions (a passer rating of 72.7). In the final seven games, he averaged 227.1 yards, passing for 10 touchdowns and three interceptions (89.1 rating).
This was also a season in which tight end Dennis Pitta, the leading receiver in 2016, suffered a career-ending hip injury in June, starting guards Marshal Yanda and Alex Lewis sustained season-ending injuries early on and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin missed four games in the regular season. Baltimore also combined for 10 dropped passes, which were the 10th most in the league.
Others will suggest Flacco's decision-making, inconsistent mechanics and inaccuracy (especially on the deep throws) have equally taken a toll on his numbers.
"To say that [the back injury] was not a factor in our passing game early combined with the personnel issues that we had there, it just wouldn't be fair to Joe," Harbaugh said last month. "As far as numbers and things like that, the first half of the season to the second half of the season was dramatic. It definitely speaks to his health."
Flacco is scheduled to make $12 million in 2018 and $18.5 million in 2019. His cap hit for the upcoming season is $24.75 million, which is the fourth-highest in the NFL.
The earliest Baltimore could part ways with Flacco is after the 2019 season. That's the first time when the cap savings exceeds the dead money.
Bisciotti, though, doesn't sound like an owner looking at an end game. He believes Flacco can be a productive franchise quarterback when he's healthy and has the right supporting cast.
"We will be exploring all options in free agency and in the draft for targets for Joe [Flacco]," Bisciotti said.