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How the Ravens will utilize Lamar Jackson and RGIII Week 1 remains a mystery

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How the Ravens will utilize Lamar Jackson and RGIII Week 1 remains a mystery

The Ravens kept three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster for the first time since 2009, and now they're faced with the task of utilizing what coach John Harbuagh called "three quality quarterbacks."

It's a good problem to have.

What's certain is that Joe Flacco is their starter. But the roles RGIII – who has NFL starter experience  – and rookie Lamar Jackson  – who becomes a threat when hitting the gas pedal – will have on gameday is to be determined.

Ahead of their Week 1 matchup vs. the Buffalo Bills, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had tight lips on their plan.

"Everybody is preparing hard," Mornhinweg said.

C'mon, Marty. Give us a little hint. 

"You know I'm not going there," he said with a smile on whether it's a conversation he'll have with Harbaugh and how much input he'll have on the decision.

"We'll see how that goes. Yes, yes, yes to all those things. Very good questions." 

Harbaugh wasn't any more vocal than his O.C..

"It won't be any more than three. It won't be any less than two," Harbaugh said Monday.

"We'll see. I really don't know. Hey. it's day-to-day. Any quarterback will tell you, any player, [that] you're one play away. You're one play away from being the guy. Those guys have to prepare just that way."

It would be a shame to not see a pair of Heisman Trophy winners put to good use on a weekly basis. RGIII finished the preseason 27 for 41 for 243 yards and two touchdowns while Jackson went 34 for 68 for 408 yards and three touchdowns. The Ravens have played around with having both Flacco and Jackson on the field at the same time, but if that will be atop of their playbook remains a mystery. Harbaugh even hinted at getting RGIII in the multi-quarterback mix as well.

"That's something that we can kind of do the same chemistry with all three of our guys – one way or another – and be creative about it somehow. That's what our coaches try to do."

What we were able to get out of Mornhinweg is how healthy and strong Flacco has looked in training camp, noting it's the healthiest he's seen his QB in years. I guess we shouldn't complain about knowing the status of our starter compared to our backups. 

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The Ravens' future isn't Joe Flacco - but they don't want to face him in the AFC

The Ravens' future isn't Joe Flacco - but they don't want to face him in the AFC

The Baltimore Ravens made it clear after their Wild Card loss that Lamar Jackson would be their quarterback going forward, bringing the somewhat official end to Joe Flacco's 11-year career with the team.

So what's next for the Super Bowl MVP?

Retirement after a fruitful NFL career is an option, but in a league where teams are desperate for a seasoned veteran, Flacco could find himself with another affluent contract. The Ravens, too, could get something nice in return.

"Let's start with a second-round pick," former Redskins GM Charley Casserly said. "It's negotiable, we're going to keep him in pencil. Who am I not going to trade him to? Well, I may not have a choice. I may only have one trade pick. I don't want him in the AFC. I don't want this guy costing me a playoff position next year."

There are several AFC teams in need of a QB, too. The Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars would jump at the chance to get Flacco under center.

But it may not be that easy for the Ravens.

"If the team wants to renegotiate his contract, Flacco controls the trade," Casserly adds. "He can simply say, 'no' [and the] Ravens may have to just release him and let Joe go his own way." 

The former GM adds that he expects something to be settled come March. Why? Casserly places Teddy Bridgewater and Nick Foles as hotter free agency pickups for QB needy teams, and with the 2019 NFL Draft not offering a ton in terms of first-round quarterbacks, the Ravens may have to act fast in order to get a return on their investment. 

One team that is definitely in need of a QB1 is the Washington Redskins. The idea could interest Flacco as his family of seven could stay put in the DMV area. But can the Redskins afford Flacco? 

The team is facing a huge cap charge with Alex Smith, whose career is in question after suffering a catastrophic leg injury, and a rookie they can mold could make more sense than a 34-year-old Flacco.

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

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Ravens reportedly agree to a deal keeping John Harbaugh in Baltimore long term

The Ravens have reportedly agreed in principle to a new contract extension with head coach John Harbaugh, a move already being praised by national pundits everywhere. 

It was nearly a month ago that the Ravens announced Harbaugh would be returning as the team’s head coach in 2019, which was noteworthy considering his status as a potential lame duck head coach.

In the same release, the team announced they were working towards a contract extension with Harbaugh, whose current deal was set to expire next year.

Despite reports from national NFL insiders, including Jason La Canfora and Peter King, that Harbaugh might prefer to hit free agency as a highly sought-after head coach after the 2019 season, it appears the Ravens will keep him in Baltimore for the foreseeable future. 

This news comes on the heels of a busier-than-usual coaching carousel, with a quarter of the 32 NFL teams changing head coaches in the last month, including two AFC North rivals. Harbaugh almost certainly would have been the cream of the crop among coaching free agents no matter when he became available, so the Ravens were looking to lock him up long term.

After a tough November home loss to the Steelers that put the team at 4-5, Harbaugh was asked about his job security, and he remained steadfast and confident.

"I've never been someone who's worried about keeping a job," Harbaugh said. "It's always been, for me, [about] doing the job. I've got a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of great players that bust their tails every day to do the best job they can. I feel really good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks we've been in the season. So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me."

After that game, the Ravens rattled off six wins in seven games to make the playoffs, and many players credited Harbaugh with keeping the team together. It was prior to Week 16 when the front office announced Harbaugh would be returning no matter how the season ended, but the strong finish and AFC North title certainly made the decision easier.

A coach with a special teams background, Harbaugh is an anomaly in the current era of young, offensive-minded head coaches. He won Super Bowl XLVII in 2013, and holds a 104-72 career record in Baltimore.

The terms of the new deal have not yet been released, but it will be interesting how many years the team is committing to Harbaugh.

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