In one regard, the Broncos' reported agreement with the Ravens to trade for quarterback Joe Flacco is worthy of criticism. More than three years after Peyton Manning's final game, the Flacco trade confirms Denver still does not employ what most would call a "franchise QB," a passer capable of leading the offense for more than a few years.
But for the first time since Manning's retirement, the Broncos have a QB for which the plan should be clear. Flacco, at 34 and entering his 12th NFL season, should be viewed as nothing more than a bridge connecting Denver to its next attempt at solving football's toughest positional riddle.
And as far as bridges go, in 2019, Flacco was arguably the sturdiest structure available.
MORE: Details of Broncos' trade for Flacco
According to ESPN, which reported the trade agreement Wednesday, Denver likely will send Baltimore a mid-round NFL Draft pick in the deal, which can't be officially processed until the new league year begins March 13. That ESPN report's mention of Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill, Tyrod Tayor and Blake Bortles as QBs “expected to change teams" in 2019 helps illustrate why the Broncos are wise to make a move for Flacco in February.
Foles and Taylor are expected to become free agents in March. Denver would need to pursue either in the open market, where the potential of a bidding war with another team exists. Such a pursuit also would set up the Broncos to repeat the mistake they made last year with Case Keenum, who will cost them $10 million in dead money for 2019 if released.
Like Flacco, Tannehill and Bortles likely would need to be acquired via trade. Neither player's body of work is strong enough to suggest he is a better option than the Super Bowl 47 MVP, especially if a price as low as a mid-round draft pick indeed turns out to be the compensation.
Yet, for the Broncos, the biggest issue with any of the non-Flacco options in free agency or the trade market is the allowance of the question with which president of football operations John Elway has wrestled for roughly half of his managerial tenure in Denver: Is this new guy, the guy?
WATCH: Flacco's best throws of 2018 season
That question was asked during the 2015 season, when Denver turned to 2012 second-round draft pick Brock Osweiler as Manning missed games due to injury. Osweiler months later was signed away by Houston, where he flopped miserably as a starter before eventually returning to the Broncos as a backup.
The question was asked when Denver drafted Paxton Lynch with the 26th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Lynch project failed, and he was released by the Broncos as the 2018 season began.
The question was asked when Trevor Siemian, Denver's seventh-round draft pick in 2015, won the 2016 starting QB job over the aforementioned Lynch and veteran signee Mark Sanchez. A couple years of injury and disappointing production later, Siemian was traded to Minnesota.
The question was asked last year, when Denver signed Keenum to a two-year, $36 million contract. Keenum threw 15 interceptions in 2018, tied for the second most in the league.
But the question can’t be asked now. Flacco's age won't allow it.
Elway's recent whiffs at QB have generated fair questions about whether he is capable of evaluating the position at which he became an NFL star as a player in the 1980s and ‘90s. A trade for Flacco does not answer those questions, of course, but it does buy Elway time to do so.
Such a move suggests the Broncos don’t love what they see in the 2019 NFL Draft QB class. They hold the 10th overall pick, and though the Flacco trade does not take them out of the running for a passer in the draft, it does imply they know who they want their 2019 starte