With the franchise tag designation window looming, the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco agreed to a new six-year, $120.6 million dollar extension that will make Flacco the highest paid player in the National Football League. His contract is reportedly expected to eclipse the amount of guaranteed money that Drew Brees received in his contract extension with the New Orleans Saints last July.
After an up and down regular season that saw Flacco anointing himself, “the best QB in the NFL” back in April, Flacco went on an absolute tear when Jim Caldwell took over offensive coordinator duties, culminating with a four-game playoff performance for the ages. In many ways, Joe Flacco gambled on himself and his immense talent much in the same way the Ravens gambled in giving Flacco his new deal. In the opinion of the Ravens front office, however, the gamble is worth every penny.
The 28-year old Flacco helped his cause with a masterful performance in the playoffs, throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions, while outplaying and beating some of his quarterback contemporaries like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
While placing the franchise tag on Joe Flacco was an option the Ravens had as a last resort, it was something the organization desperately wanted to avoid with how the 2013 team was to be constructed.
The Ravens have potential free agents that could find greener pastures (and some will even with a new Flacco deal) because the team is so close to the cap number for the upcoming season. Flacco’s deal helps the Ravens in the short term as they inch close to the salary cap figure of $123 million.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, the cap numbers for the deal will reportedly be friendly as it relates to what the Ravens can do with their free agents this off-season.
Because the deal is backloaded, there will come a time where the Ravens will have to address Flacco’s contract as the team will take a cap hit of $29 million in 2016, assuring that there will be restructuring to come. For now, this can go a long way in constructing the roster in addition to how the contract fits in once it becomes signed and finalized.
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome has already said the Ravens won’t sacrifice the future trying to win it all the following season as they attempted to in 2001 by restructuring deals to keep veterans around. Newsome also realizes that the Ravens couldn’t afford to sacrifice losing a quarterback entering the prime of his career. With the deal in tow, the Ravens will make moves to keep themselves competitive in 2014, ’15 and ’16.
Now they can focus on retaining key FA’s like Dannell Ellerbe who has elevated his game to an every-down linebacker. They can give a hard second look on Paul Kruger and Cary Williams, and to a lesser extent, Ed Reed (though they’ll be tougher to retain). The move gives the Ravens the flexibility to extend contracts for Flacco’s pieces on offense, Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones.
Make no mistake, the deal will cause its share of casualties. The team, however, will be smart in the way they approach their pending FA’s and older players currently on the roster that will cost them money. Losing some players that were part of a championship team is the business of the game, but the Ravens have done this before.
They’ve allowed vets like Kelly Gregg, Jarret Johnson, Bart Scott, Todd Heap and Willis McGahee to walk and haven’t missed a beat. They do it because Ozzie and company are the best at finding pieces that fit existing ones at the right price and by stocking the draft with impact players.
Flacco played himself into a situation where he gained a huge bargaining chip in his back pocket. The Ravens weren’t going to low ball the Super Bowl winning quarterback after the playoff run he had and run the risk of losing him. Nor were they prepared to slap a franchise tag on him knowing what it would cost the team against the cap for the upcoming season.
Signing a new deal avoided the potential ugly scene for the coming season where Flacco could have skipped mini-camps and more had he been designated with the franchise tag. Not to mention the precious time of being around Jim Caldwell with a full off-season to tweak the offensive game plan.
The front office of the Baltimore Ravens is still one of the best in all of football in retaining their star players. Top notch organizations do that. The names are endless.
Jonathan Ogden, Haloti Ngata, Ray Rice, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. They said they wanted Flacco here and they got it done. VP of Football Administration, Pat Moriarty gets a ton of credit for the way he handles these delicate situations.
Yes, Joe Flacco will have his days where he struggles. We’ve seen it during his career, especially his road struggles last season. Other quarterbacks go through the same things at times. But given where this franchise is currently and where it’s been with Joe Flacco behind center, the Ravens can do far worse than a guy who has won a playoff game in each of his five seasons in the NFL.
Flacco, plain and simple, gives you a chance to win each Sunday you step on the field.
The Ravens finally can check off a position that for years evaded this organization in terms of consistency: Franchise Quarterback. They’re now set at the position with a guy who has a Super Bowl championship under his belt, heading into the prime of his career with an offense that is seemingly limitless as the Ravens fundamentally shift from a defensive team to a more balanced, high-powered offensive identity.
Is Joe Flacco worth the contract?
Every penny of it.
Matt Lund is a contributor for BaltimoreSportsReport.com and co-host of the BSR Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @MattCLund