OWINGS MILLS – Joe Flacco delivered crisp spirals all over the field at Gillette Stadium in the AFC championship game Sunday night, nearly leading the Baltimore Ravens to the Super Bowl.
By outdueling New England Patriots legendary quarterback Tom Brady, Flacco might have made his most convincing argument that he’s worthy of a lucrative contract extension.
During the Ravens’ 23-20 loss to the Patriots, Flacco completed 22 of 36 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for a 95.4 quarterback rating.
Now, Flacco awaits contract negotiations with the Ravens during the offseason.
“I’ve said it all along: I think I’m the quarterback that I am,” said Flacco, who has won five of nine career playoff games and gone 44-20 during the regular season. “I think the first four years that I’ve played here we’ve gone to the playoffs every time and won a game. I think the last two years that I’ve played in the playoffs, I’ve played well in the playoffs.
“Like I said earlier, I think when you watch the film and you’re a guy in this organization, I think that you can say, ‘Hey, he’s played pretty damn good for us.’ But like I said, you never know what’s going to happen. So, we’ll see.”
Flacco, 27, looked ready for business Monday having shaved off his Fu Manchu mustache.
Flacco nearly delivered a game-winning touchdown drive, but his pass was mishandled by wide receiver Lee Evans and it got knocked out of Evans’ hands by cornerback Sterling Moore.
He averaged 7.2 yards per pass play.
“That’s the Joe we know,” center Matt Birk said. “I don’t know why, but for some reason Joe gets beat up more than he should. We’re not surprised.
“We’re proud of him. He’s a hell of a quarterback, a hell of a leader. He’ll be around for a long time. You guys can kick him around for 10 more years.”
In order for that to happen, though, the Ravens will need to agree to terms with the former first-round draft pick from Delaware who has never missed a start in four NFL seasons.
Flacco passed for 3,610 yards, 20 touchdowns and a dozen interceptions last season. For his career, Flacco has passed for 13,816 yards, 80 touchdowns and 46 interceptions for a 86.0 quarterback rating.
Ravens team owner Steve Bisciotti has already declared that the team wants to reward Flacco with a new deal prior to the final year of his rookie deal next season.
Flacco is due a $4.61 million base salary in 2012 after triggering a $3.25 million escalator clause. He’s also due a $2.1 million roster bonus.
Will the Ravens look to pay Flacco in the neighborhood of Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick?
He received a seven-year, $62.1 million extension that included $24 million in guaranteed money.
It’s believed those numbers would be regarded as low by the Flacco camp, though.
And the Ravens are regarded as unlikely to pay Flacco how the Cincinnati Bengals once did with former quarterback Carson Palmer with a $118.75 maximum value contract, or New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s $106.9 million deal that includes $35 million in guaranteed money and a $13 million bonus.
“Joe has been awesome for us all year,” said tight end Dennis Pitta, one of Flacco’s closest friends. “I think he deserves a big contract. I think he deserves to be paid, first and foremost, for having to put up with all the criticism.”
Flacco left no doubts about his intentions for this offseason. He wants to get the contract taken care of.
“Definitely,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes. If it goes, it goes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
And Flacco and his wife, Dana, are expecting their first child in June.
He has no major travel plans.
“I’m sure we’ll do something, nothing too big,” Flacco said. “I don’t really like to go places. I’m sure she doesn’t like to hear that. Just hang out with some friends and relax a little bit.”