- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The first domino of the NFL offseason fell Wednesday when the Baltimore Ravens agreed to trade quarterback Joe Flacco to the Denver Broncos in exchange for a 2019 fourth-round pick.

The deal cannot be officially completed until the new league year begins March 13, but it impacts the upcoming quarterback market. By acquiring Flacco, the Broncos will now reportedly look to trade or possibly release starter Case Keenum, making him another name available.

Keenum could join Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles, Ryan Tannehill and Tyrod Taylor as the top quarterbacks to likely switch teams this spring.

Flacco, meanwhile, will get a fresh start with the Broncos after spending 11 seasons in Baltimore. The 34-year-old lost his starting job last season to rookie first-rounder Lamar Jackson, who helped rally Baltimore to the playoffs. Last month, the Ravens acknowledged they would explore trading Flacco in the offseason.

While Flacco’s departure was expected, it officially ends an era in Baltimore. Flacco and the Ravens made the postseason six times (seven if you count Jackson’s run) — winning the Super Bowl in 2013.

The Broncos hope Flacco’s Super Bowl experience can help them in Denver. Since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 season, Broncos general manager John Elway has whiffed badly trying to find a replacement.

Denver signed Keenum in 2018 to a two-year, $36 million deal, but finished just 6-10. Keenum struggled in his first season as a Bronco, recording a quarterback rating of 81.2 and threw only 18 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. Denver missed the playoffs for the third straight year.

Flacco, however, is coming off a season in which he threw for 2,465 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. Flacco, too, has appeared to be on the decline for the last four seasons — which is why Baltimore drafted Jackson 32nd overall last April.

ESPN first reported the deal, while Sports Illustrated reported the draft compensation.

This trade doesn’t eliminate the possibility the Broncos will draft a quarterback this spring with the 10th overall pick. Flacco still has three years, $63 million left on his contract, but none of it is guaranteed.

Taking a quarterback after such a move wouldn’t necessarily be uncommon, either. Just last year, teams like the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets added veterans (Taylor in Cleveland, Bridgewater in New York) only to draft Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold with the first and third overall picks. The Arizona Cardinals also drafted Josh Rosen after adding Sam Bradford.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins and, of course, the Washington Redskins are seen as other quarterback-needy teams around the league.

The Redskins likely won’t have the cap space available to add a high-profile quarterback as Alex Smith still carries a cap figure of $20.4 million in 2019 while he recovers from a leg injury.

Washington is reportedly preparing as if Smith won’t play next season. Although president Bruce Allen denied that report, Colt McCoy remains the only other quarterback under contract for Washington in 2019.

That means the Redskins will likely have to address the position through free agency or the draft, which takes place April 25-27.

NFL free agency officially begins March 13, though teams can begin negotiating contracts with other teams’ free agents on March 11.

This year’s free agent class doesn’t have the intrigue of last year’s quarterback carousel, but it does have its star power.

After skipping the entire 2018 season, running back Le’Veon Bell is expected to move on from Pittsburgh. Star pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney, drafted first overall in 2014, could sign elsewhere if the Houston Texans decide not to hand out the franchise tag. Other notable names include Seattle safety Earl Thomas, Dallas pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence and Giants safety Landon Collins.

And perhaps the most fascinating offseason storyline will be if the Steelers decide to trade star wide receiver Antonio Brown.

It was reported Tuesday that Brown officially wants out of Pittsburgh, asking the team for a trade.

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