Limping into the playoffs with a beat-up roster, a deficient pass-rush, and a new coordinator (Jim Caldwell) calling the shots on offense, the Baltimore Ravens seemed destined for an early playoff exit. Enter Ray Lewis with news of his impending retirement following the 2012-13 season. In an instant, the Ravens transcend their past woes to become the Super Bowl champions! Is it so ridiculous to attribute their win to Ray Lewis’ intervention? Probably. Especially when we consider that Joe Flacco played like a man-on-fire for the duration of the playoffs, displaying the arm strength, accuracy and poise that he’s teased us with since he was drafted.
The confetti was swept away, the season came to an end and Joe Flacco demanded to become the highest paid player in NFL history… Wait, what?! The same Joe Flacco that posted pedestrian numbers throughout the regular season and held his team back on multiple occasions (at Houston, vs. Denver)? Sure, why not? Fast forward a few weeks and Flacco has been re-signed to a 6-year deal worth $120.6 million. He is now being paid more than future hall-of-famers Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning!
Fair enough. However, the Ravens are in a precarious position; Paul Kruger, Ed Reed, Jacoby Jones, Dannell Ellerbe, and Cary Williams are all pending free agents. With a significant amount of cap-room occupied by their above-average quarterback, a few of these key contributors may be forced to don a new uniform in 2013. Baltimore’s defense has become especially suspect as of late. How will they respond to the retirement of their emotional leader? Coupled with the impending departure of Ed Reed, the face of the franchise looks an awful lot like Joe Flacco.
The upcoming season will prove if the Ravens–best known for their intimidating defense–can transition to a team defined by a high-octane offense to carry a defense that is in flux. The pressure rests squarely on the shoulders of Joe Flacco. Come next season, he would benefit from pretending every game is a playoff bout, anything less than elite production and the contract will look more and more like a blight rather than a blessing. Then we’d hear the whispers of “He’s overrated.” and “Flacco is just an average QB.” or maybe, just maybe “He is the reason the Ravens are in the position they’re in.”
… Or they win another Super Bowl.