John Elway's latest attempt to replace Peyton Manning was an obvious and predictable one, as the Broncos have agreed to acquire Joe Flacco for a reported mid-round pick. The trade cannot be made official until the new league year begins in mid-March, but ESPN and other outlets have confirmed the trade has been agreed to.
The Ravens were obviously done with Flacco after Lamar Jackson took over as the starter and led them to the playoffs. With Flacco out of the picture (soon-to-be) officially, the Ravens will hopefully open up more of the offense to Jackson's unique skill set. This was always going to happen, so there isn't much to discuss from the Ravens side.
However, this could be an interesting one to sort through for Fantasy purposes in Denver. Flacco is certainly the most decorated quarterback the Broncos have had since Manning's retirement, so there's going to be more hype surrounding this offense after Case Keenum's mediocre 2018. Unfortunately, there's not a ton of evidence that Flacco is much better than Keenum at this point:
Since Case Keenum entered the league:— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) February 13, 2019
Keenum 62.0% CMP 6.9 Y/A 6.5 AY/A 3.5% TD 2.3% INT 84.5 Rating
Flacco 62.6% CMP 6.5 Y/A 6.0 AY/A 3.5% TD 2.5% INT 82.3 Rating
Of course, just because they've come to similar numbers over the past handful of years doesn't mean they are identical players. Flacco has transformed over the past few years into a dink-and-dunk quarterback, but he hasn't exactly had a ton of downfield options to work with in Baltimore lately. When he had Steve Smith and Torrey Smith, he was always willing to take shots down the field. He was more aggressive than Keenum last season too; his average depth of target was 8.4 yards ranked 13th in the NFL, compared to Keenum's 28th-ranked 7.5 depth of target.
Even if Flacco is a diminished version of the passer who led the Ravens to the Super Bowl, he represents at least the possibility of an improvement on Keenum. There's no guarantee, but if Flacco is healthy after missing time with back and hip injuries in recent years and the Broncos can keep him upright, he could open up a new dynamic for this offense.
Of course, that's going to depend on the talent around him. When Flacco had viable deep threats, he leaned on them; otherwise, it was a lot of tight end and running back targets. That could be a good sign for Phillip Lindsay or Devontae Booker, but given the Broncos' struggles finding a viable, healthy tight end to incorporate into the offense, it's not the ideal scenario.
Looking at the depth chart at wide receiver heading into free agency and the draft, one obvious potential beneficiary stands out: Courtland Sutton. Sutton isn't a classic burner, with his 4.54-second 40-yard dash coming in around the median for wide receivers, but he plays up as a downfield option thanks to his size and massive catch radius. At SMU, he averaged 16.0 yards per catch or better in three seasons, and then went out and averaged 16.8 yards per catch as a rookie. He only caught half of the passes thrown his way, but with a big-armed quarterback set to be under center for the Broncos, his big-play ability could show up even more.
Outside of last year's 40th overall pick, this is a bereft passing game. Of their top-five players in receptions in 2018: One is a 32-year-old returning from a ruptured Achilles; two are running backs; one was traded mid-season; and then there's Sutton. Jeff Heuerman and DaeSean Hamilton also caught 30 passes but averaged a paltry 9.1 and 8.1 yards per catch.
An infusion of talent is needed, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the Broncos went after a receiver in the first few rounds of the draft, as well as in free agency. It likely won't be enough to make Flacco a Fantasy relevant option, but the potential is here for the Broncos' offense to take a step toward respectability after ranking 19th, 22nd, 27th, and 24th in points over the past four years.
Is this a move to get excited about? Not at all. But, with a pair of potential stud running backs in Lindsay and Royce Freeman and a promising young receiver in Sutton, any attempt to make this offense a little livelier is welcome. That may not happen with Flacco, but it definitely wasn't happening with Keenum. For now, that's enough.
Check out what the Fantasy Football Today guys had to say about Flacco: