The Ravens will soon venture into dangerous and in many ways unchartered waters – waters that include a Joe Flacco contract extension.
So why is this dangerous?
Because how the Ravens handle it could drastically affect the future of the franchise. The Ravens must be careful not to overpay an above average quarterback.
There I said it!
Is it wrong? Is Joe Flacco better than an above average quarterback? If you answered yes, we aren’t watching the same player. Can’t be!
Now Flacco supporters will point to his winning ways and say that stats don’t matter, only the “W’s”. And while I would agree that he has been a winner, are those winning ways due to his outstanding achievement or are they the byproduct of a team effort?
Flacco’s performance in last year’s AFC Championship has been widely praised, as it should be. But he lost. So as much as that was a team loss, don’t the same rules apply to a win?
Clearly Flacco has been a stabilizing force. He’s managed regular season games extremely well and he’s helped put the Ravens in position to make an impact in the post season.
But is he a difference maker?
For years Baltimore has been cursed with inept play at the quarterback position. Then along comes Flacco in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
Suddenly ineptness didn’t stand behind center for the Ravens. And our collective affinity for the man grew at least in part not by his accomplishments but more so by the fact that he just didn’t mess things up. He didn’t trip over his feet. He didn’t throw inexplicable interceptions or fumble without being touched.
Flacco is a clear upgrade over what the Baltimore Ravens have ever had and therefore it’s easy for fans to fall in love.
Steve Bisciotti has said that Flacco is the reason that the Ravens have kept the window of opportunity open for four straight seasons. And now he’s working on a fifth straight year of playoff berths.
But does that make him worthy of top end dollars – to become one of the league’s highest paid players?
Some would say that the coaching staff has held Flacco back – specifically Cam Cameron. On the surface it’s hard to argue with that but might there be a reason that the team has held Flacco back? Does the coaching staff see his limitations and therefore they dummy down the offense?
While most will tag Cameron with a plethora of disparaging nicknames, some of which can’t even be printed here, let’s face it, the guy knows more about football than 99% of the fans out there. This has been his life for nearly 30 years and even if he was a 1-15, one year and done head coach, he was one of only 32 coaches of his kind at one point in his career.
So it stands to reason that he is aware of how this is going down, right?
And if he’s not, Cameron’s boss John Harbaugh has to see the problems, right? How could he accept such ongoing offensive inconsistencies unless he is ok with the way things are being handled?
Clearly there’s a major disconnect.
So how do you gauge Flacco’s market value?
Keeping Cameron around makes that evaluation even more difficult. His schemes have been described as archaic, redundant, overly simplistic and obsolete. These men sit in rooms for hours on end each week studying film. They don’t see this? They don’t know this?
They have to know it, yet it continues.
Is it Harbaugh? Cameron? Or Flacco?
Well given that there’s really no acceptable backup plan for Flacco, he’s not going anywhere in 2013. Harbaugh just got an extension so given that and an enviable coaching record for a 5-year skipper, he’s not going anywhere.
And that leaves Cameron.
Of course this conversation is one we had last year. Cameron should have been dismissed at the end of last season and now the Ravens are faced with a serious dilemma.
Keeping this QB and coordinator together will mean more of the same. And if that’s the Ravens’ choice than you have to pay Flacco at his current level of performance because after 5 seasons together, there’s little reason to believe that Flacco will ever be anything more than an above average QB – a game manager, not a difference maker, if he’s attached to Cameron.
The danger lies in Bisciotti’s affinity for the quarterback and his view of Flacco as a difference maker because he might the fatal mistake of paying him as such. And if he does back up the Brinks’ for Flacco, the rest of the team will suffer because there will be fewer dollars to:
- Improve the offensive line
- Improve the pass rush
- Find quality replacements for Ed Reed and Ray Lewis
- Hold on to developing players who are set to be unrestricted free agents like Cary Williams, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger
This isn’t baseball folks. Overpaying a game manager via a multi-year deal with a $50 M signing bonus could sink the team for years.
Unfortunately the Ravens may have no other choice. They have no Plan B in the form of a viable replacement at quarterback and they still might not know if the garbage offense we too often see is the byproduct of Cameron or Flacco or both.
Essentially Steve Bisciotti has punted away his negotiating leverage and overspending on this three-headed monster, will slam his precious windows shut.