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Where does Joe Flacco fit in with the Broncos future?

(Photo by Justin Edmonds / Getty Images)

I want to make one thing crystal clear Broncos Country; Joe Flacco is not the problem with this 0-4 team.

Is he Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers? No. But we all knew that coming into the season.

Is he capable of winning a game solely on his arm talent and playmaking ability? Clearly not, based on what we’ve seen in the first four weeks of the season.

What he has been, though, is serviceable. Maybe even better than that.

So far, Flacco is on pace for a collection of stats better than he’s been able to accumulate in almost a half-decade. Currently, he’s tracking for more than 4,000 yards, something he’s done only once in his career. His 66 percent completion percentage is better than he’s ever finished a season with in a single season, and that’s not just because he’s dinking and dunking considering both his average yards per attempt and net yards per attempt (a fancy stat that incorporates sack yardage along with passes) are significantly higher than his career average. His 61.6 QBR (quarterback rating as measured by ESPN) is the third best it’s been in his 12 years in the league.

All that to say the Joe Flacco we’re seeing so far is, believe it or not, playing like he’s in his prime.

Unfortunately for the Broncos, Joe Cool isn’t going to save this team from its current state. Realistically, we’re looking at a team in need of a full rebuild and a commitment to the youth movement. By no fault of his own, Flacco doesn’t fit into that plan.

With that in mind, come Week 9, I fully expect Drew Lock to be the starting quarterback for the orange and blue. So where does that leave the 34-year-old veteran?

The Broncos put themselves in an awkward predicament when earlier this year they restructured Flacco’s contract. When Flacco arrived in Denver, his deal essentially amounted to a trial run. If things had gone as originally planned, it would be easy to keep him around at a reasonable rate. If not, letting him walk at the end of this year would have cost the Broncos nothing. That isn’t the case anymore. Now, cutting Flacco at the end of the season would amount to around $24 million in dead money on the salary cap. That number isn’t crippling, but it clearly isn’t ideal. I also wouldn’t expect the front office to pay $20+ million for a backup quarterback.

That leads me to what I believe is the most prudent option: Trade Flacco to a team that’s truly in need of a veteran signal caller. In a year where we’ve already seen more starting quarterbacks than I can count on one hand go down with significant injuries, the 2019 edition of Joe Flacco is (somewhat surprisingly) a valuable commodity.

The best part? I’ve already got the perfect team in mind. Looking at you, Pittsburgh Steelers.

Injured starting quarterback? Check.

Underperforming young replacement? Correct.

Opportunity to make the playoffs? After a win last night and with the division leaders sitting at just 2-2, yes.

Competition that Flacco is familiar with? Bingo.

The Broncos are not going to get much more than what they offered up to Baltimore this past offseason, but at the very least they’ll end up with another dart to throw at the NFL Draft dartboard in 2020. That’s exactly what the decision makers at Dove Valley should be looking for at the moment.

At the end of the day, it’s a win for everyone involved. The Broncos add an asset (or assets) for their rebuild, the Steelers add a Super Bowl-winning quarterback to their talented young roster and Flacco gets an opportunity to fight for a playoff berth at least one more time. It’s not exactly what we expected six months ago, but it’s the right move for the future of this team.

That has to be the focus at Dove Valley now.

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