Will the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco be able to reach an agreement on a long-term contract and ease the fears of many Ravens fans?
Real or not, storm clouds appear to be forming.
In the world of negotiations, it can be expected that things will at times turn sour and can often look very bleak leading up to the negotiating deadline.
But, the adage “Deadlines spur actions” applies.
Neither side is going to make their “best” offer until they have to, and that “best offer” often doesn’t comes until the last minute.
But, until then, we’re likely to hear a lot of bad news and moaning and groaning about how little progress is being made. We will also probably hear a lot rationalizing and lot of the “blame game” being passed around.
For Flacco and the Ravens, there are two important deadlines coming up in the next two week.
The first deadline is next Monday’s deadline for designating Flacco as the team’s Franchise Tag (either Exclusive or Non-exclusive). This is the deadline that most seem to be focused on, BUT it is really only important for determining which of the Franchise Tags the team has decided to use (if they haven’t reached a long-term deal by then).
It is very important to remember that this deadline DOES NOT preclude the team and Flacco from continuing to try and hammer out a long-term deal.
The second deadline is the following Tuesday (March 12th), when the new league year begins.
This is the much more important deadline, because, as of that date, teams must be under the league-wide Salary Cap and if the team is forced to use the Franchise Tag on Flacco, it is at that time the team will have to have enough Cap space to fit Flacco’s Franchise Tag under the Cap.
So, it is at that time that the team will likely need to release some players in order to accommodate the Tag, which could mean that the Ravens will be forced to say goodbye to players like fullback Vonta Leach and linebackers Brendan Ayanbadejo and Jameel McClain (if not others).
So, until then, the major ramifications of the Franchise Tag won’t be felt and the team and Flacco’s agent can continue to try and find a middle ground.
Clearly, though, they haven’t reached that point and it’s becoming more and more apparent that they may not be that close. With each day, there is no news or worse, rumors that things aren’t going well. That, of course, could just be posturing as the sides jockey for public perception, while awaiting the other side’s “best” offer.
One thing that does seem apparent is that the Ravens are in no hurry to make Flacco the highest paid player in the game. While it seems that they are willing to pay Flacco handsomely, Ozzie Newsome & Co. obviously aren’t willing – at this time, at least – to meet Flacco’s asking price.
Just how far apart they are remains to be seen, but next Monday’s Franchise Tag deadline may well provide a clue. If the Ravens opt to use the Exclusive Tag on Flacco, it could well indicate that the parties are close to a deal or at least working diligently towards one. In that case, the Exclusive Tag would ensure that another team would not enter the picture and muck up the works by potentially throwing an offer at Flacco.
On the other hand, if the Ravens opt for the Non-exclusive Tag, it could very well indicate that the parties are far apart on the issue of Flacco’s value and the team is willing to let the market set that value. In that case, not unlike how the Ravens handled Ray Lewis when he was a free agent in 2009, the Ravens would allow Flacco to see if some other team would meet his asking price to prove to the Ravens that Flacco is correct about his market value.
If Flacco couldn’t find such offer, then he would likely be forced to modify his demands and be more accepting of the Ravens version of his market value.
So, while there is some merit to this type of approach, and Ozzie Newsome – as a former player, himself – has often preferred that approach, it is not without a lot of risk.
First, obviously, Flacco could sign an offer sheet with another team, and depending on the structure, it could be hard for the Ravens to match. In that case, the Ravens would be left with the consolation prize of two first-round draft picks, but would most certainly – and justifiably – be subjected to major scrutiny for losing their franchise quarterback.
The other risk is that, by using the Non-exclusive Tag, the Ravens run the risk of alienating their Super Bowl MVP, and perhaps, driving him into the arms of another team. So, if the Ravens were to pursue this approach, they would have to be sure that their intention of letting the market dictate the contract and their dedication to matching the market offer to Flacco is clearly understood and not interpreted as a slight by their quarterback or his agent.
So, if the Ravens were to pursue this option, they would have to be fairly secure that Flacco is committed to staying in Baltimore and that allowing him to solicit other offers is just part of the negotiating process aimed at reaching a long-term deal in Baltimore.
It appears that most sources close to the deal still think the Ravens and Flacco will find a way to nail down a new contract before March 12, thereby saving the team’s Salary Cap. But such an agreement is not like to happen without plenty of drama.
And so the story goes, as it usually does with this team – nothing comes easy and there’s never a dull moment.
Tighten your seatbelts!