Hopefully the Ravens and Joe Flacco successfully structure a new long-term deal that is fair.
But what exactly is fair?
A fair deal exists when both sides believe they walked away from the negotiating table leaving something on it. That suggests compromise with the result usually being the greatest good for the greatest number.
But what if the numbers are on opposite ends of the franchise quarterback wage scale spectrum? A compromise then might be about as realistic as a Steelers fan winning a spelling bee.
Then, the number becomes that of the franchise tag.
But which type of franchise tag will the Ravens choose for Flacco if an eleventh hour deal isn’t reached on March 4?
Door No. 1: The Exclusive Franchise Tag
The exclusive tag is a one-year contract that is the average of the top five QB salaries for this year. This average will be set at the end of the restricted free agent signing period on April 19th. The price for the exclusive Franchise Tag is expected to be over $20M. This tag also prohibits any team from negotiating with Flacco.
Door No. 2: The Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag
The non-exclusive Tag is a one-year contract that is the average of the top five players at the position over the prior five years. For 2013, the non-exclusive Tag for Quarterbacks has tentatively been set at $14.6M. Other teams are free to negotiate with Flacco but the Ravens retain the right to match any offer. If they choose not to match, the Ravens receive the signing team’s No. 1 draft pick for the next two years.
Pick Door No. 2.
Ozzie needs to allow the market to set the price for Flacco. Why bid against yourself? Besides the Ravens are too close to Flacco, perhaps even too intoxicated by the lure of the Super Bowl XLVII MVP.
Will the market pay for the Flacco from his last 5 starts or his previous 88 starts when his QB Rating hovered in the mid 80’s? Not a bad QBR but hardly worthy of a $120+ Million contract AND two No. 1 picks.
A misfire on a deal like that will cost jobs.
Some worry that the Cleveland Browns are primed to move on Flacco. Now there’s a team that changes coaches and general managers more frequently than Antonio Cromartie changes baby mommas. A team that has won exactly 1 playoff game since January 6, 1990 (Flacco was 4 at the time); has made only 2 playoff appearances since 1990 and has had only 3 winning seasons since 1990.
Opting for the Browns over the Ravens is like trading in Kate Upton for Joan Rivers.
And please, let’s not dredge up the fact that the Falcons gave up multiple picks to move up to nab Julio Jones in 2011 and how the Redskins did the same to move up to take RGIII in 2012. Those teams moved up to take rookies who cost a fraction of what Flacco will cost.
Admittedly Flacco has most of the negotiating leverage. The Ravens do not have a backup QB worthy of taking over. There is no QB available to them in the draft at No. 32 and please don’t say Alex Smith.
So why give him more leverage with the exclusive tag at $20M?
Such a tag will prove costly not only because it represents 16.5% of the entire salary cap of $120.9M, but it will also make it extremely difficult for the Ravens to keep players like Bryant McKinnie and Anquan Boldin – both vital to the team’s success this past postseason.
Imagine Flacco without that pair; without Matt Birk; without Jacoby Jones; without Vonta Leach; and dependent upon a rebuilding defense without Ed Reed to help control the clock and tilt the field.
That $5M+ could go a long way towards keeping more of the team in tact.
The Ravens need to realize that they stand out head and shoulders above the potential suitors for Flacco and that Flacco and his young, growing family would prefer to remain close to their roots in Audubon, NJ, just 100 miles away than to drift off to Cleveland or Arizona.
(And no the Eagles and Chip Kelly’s rapid-fire Oregon Ducks offense isn’t an option.)
So let’s just hope the Ravens stand tall and proud and don’t go the “exclusive” route if the franchise tag is in play.
Otherwise the only thing left on the negotiating table will be unnecessary cap casualties.