Breaking down the Ravens’ options with Joe Flacco’s contract

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According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens and Joe Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, will meet this week at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in an attempt to sign the Super Bowl XLVII MVP to a long-term contract.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome finds himself in a rare situation as he and the team have no leverage during negotiations. According to Newsome, Flacco turned down a top-five contract prior to the start of the 2012 season, a gamble by Flacco that clearly paid off. Flacco hit a trifecta of crippling feats to the Ravens’ bank account during the playoffs- he was perfect with 11 TD’s and 0 INT’s, he won the Super Bowl and was named Super Bowl MVP.

Flacco is in position to demand top-tier money and will be paid top-tier money, whether that comes from a bank account in Baltimore or elsewhere. Reaching an agreement before the March 4 Franchise Tag becomes imperative because placing either of the two Franchise Tag designations (non-exclusive or exclusive) puts the Ravens in a difficult predicament.

To place the non-exclusive franchise tag on Flacco is something the Ravens shouldn’t even be considering. It would benefit the team because they would only be paying Flacco a fully guaranteed one-year contract of $14.6 million, which is below Flacco’s asking price as Newsome previously identified. However, the Ravens would run the risk of losing Flacco to another team interested in a Super Bowl MVP quarterback headed into the prime of his career.

If another team made Flacco an offer, the Ravens would have the opportunity to match it, but that would likely drive Flacco’s price tag above what the Ravens and Flacco would have been willing to agree on previously. The price becomes steep for the theoretical other team as not only would they have to sign Flacco to the expensive contract, but they would have to forfeit two 1st-round draft picks to the Ravens.

Given the mortgaging of future drafts recently by the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins to trade up to select Julio Jones or Robert Griffin III, teams clearly are willing to give up first round picks to draft a coveted player who hasn’t played a down in the NFL. A proven player like Flacco would certainly have suitors on the open market.

If a tag is placed on Flacco, it’ll have to be the Exclusive Franchise Tag, which pays Flacco a guaranteed one-year amount of more than $20 million. Not only would the Ravens be forced to pay more than they’re willing, they’ll be forced to release many key players to afford Flacco. If they have to go this route, they’ll also have practically no way of retaining any players from the Super Bowl team who hit the free agent market.

No matter what move the Ravens make, it’s going to make the front office cringe at the price tag and limit what the team can do to add pieces around Flacco. With football being the cut-throat business that it is, Flacco cannot be expected to take a “home team discount” because if his performance declines at all during the length of his contract, he has minimal job security.

Flacco shouldn’t be labeled as a bad guy based on his demands and the limitations it places on the team. He’s the franchise quarterback Baltimore has been looking for since Bert Jones and with franchise quarterbacks come big price tags. Through the constant bashing and criticism, he has earned his keep and deserves every dollar he is paid next season.

Owner Steve Bisciotti will ultimately end up writing a bigger check to Flacco than he ever imagined. However, seeing his latest Super Bowl ring on his finger as he signs the check will help soften the blow just a bit.

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About Kris Jones

Kris Jones
Kris - or "Goob" as he's widely known - has turned an obsession into a career. As a media member by day and super fan by night, he reports from the Under Armour Performance Center twice per week and brings Ravens news from a fan's perspective. His popular YouTube series...more

16 Raves on “Breaking down the Ravens’ options with Joe Flacco’s contract

  1. Anonymous on said:

    I still don’t like the greed that high paying sports have put on some of these players.. they really lose the sense of TEAM… it used to be you knew who you’re team was, now players come and go so much it makes TEAM play nerly impossible.. they get good and someone else’s big $$$ takes away.. just how much money does one family or person really need? I love football, but the greed of the all the sports is driving me away..

    • Reggie in Afghanistan on said:

      It comes down to capitalism: the more we want football, the more money owners can drive up prices, and with that the players are owed a chunk of that profit and demand. Its not the players fault that we’ll keep paying for and wanting more football.

    • Bill on said:

      The owners are the ones that demand a salary cap. It’s not the fault of the players that the owners put a structure in place that makes it hard for a QB to get market value while keeping a strong team around him.

    • @flaccoswag on said:

      That’s why i support the FRANCHISE more than the players. Owners put players in a position (financially) where they must be greedy. It’s still a business, as cliche as it sounds. It’s still about team and winning. We have a banner to drop week 1.

  2. Dave (Dtaylorevox) on said:

    I think its key to give flacco what he wants ASAP, then set the rest of team around him. Restructure Ngata, Boldin, maybe even Suggs (not sure of his contract specifics), and hope Reed takes somehting like 4 mill or let him walk. Ellerbee is a huge concern though IMO.

  3. Ravenwoman on said:

    Regardless of whether Flacco signs a long term contract or is slapped with either franchise tag, the carnage the Ravens will experience will be shocking to the fan base. The Ravens already have several high priced players who are taking up approximately 70% of the cap, before Flacco even inks a deal. I think if Flacco accepts a cap friendly deal, then the Ravens will try to do some minor restructuring of contracts in order to retain a few select players like Bolden and Jacoby Jones. However, if Flacco plays hardball with the front office and they are forced to use the Exclusive tag on him, say goodbye to Birk, Reed, Kruger, Ellerbe, Leach, and possibly one of the treasured wide receivers. There is only so much restructuring a team can do without totally mortgaging the future and the Ravens already stated that they will not do that just to win one more Superbowl.

  4. Voice of Reason on said:

    What many people don’t realize is that the exclusive tender actually takes away more leverage than the nonexclusive tender would. If we kept using the exclusive tender, we would owe Flacco $24 million in 2014, $30 million in 2015, and amounts too high to even mention after that. The non-exclusive tender would actually give us amounts cheaper than a contract would be. The problem being that teams would obviously try to steal him from us. But the leverage of a new team forfeiting 2 first rounders is much more than one year of exclusivity. Flacco and his agent would know that all they have to do is hang tight, play out a generous $20 million deal, and then he becomes a full FA with no restrictions in 2014.

  5. Matthew on said:

    I keep seeing people say that the non-exclusive tag is an option that the Ravens shouldn’t consider. I don’t believe anyone, including Kris, has made a strong enough argument against it. If the Ravens are indeed in a position where they’d consider using the exclusive tag on Flacco, then that suggests that they’re already willing (albeit not desiring) to lock down more than $20M of 2013 cap space toward Flacco. Any team willing to make Joe an offer under the non-exclusive tag would have to ensure that their offer was greater than $20M a year (to price out the Ravens) as well as be willing to part with two first round draft picks. To provide a frame of reference to that amount of money, Drew Brees currently averages $20M per year under his newest contract as the highest paid player in the NFL (Peyton Manning is 2nd at $19.2M). Indeed, teams have given up multiple first round picks to move up in the draft, but those are for rookies under the new rookie-wage-friendly CBA. No team has ever given up two first round picks to gain a player whose salary will be $20M+/year. Further, Baltimore fans are not the only critics of Joe’s performance to date.

    Thus, to steal Flacco away from the Ravens if he’s given the non-exclusive tag, a team would have to be willing to make Joe Flacco the highest paid player in the NFL [b] IN ADDITION TO [/b] giving up two first round draft picks. I just don’t see that happening. There’s too much concern for his consistency and too many people believe his playoff performance this year was a fluke. While using the non-exclusive tag is a gamble in theory, I believe it would be a safe bet in this situation. I think the Ravens could and should consider using it if they’re forced to use any franchise tag, which would give them protection against Joe departing as a free agent as well as flexibility in his contract rate for striking a long-term deal. Obviously, the best option would be to work out a deal with Joe prior to the franchise tag deadline, but that may be a very difficult task if he did indeed turn down a deal worth $16M on average prior to the beginning of the season.

    • Kris JonesKris Jones on said:

      Matthew,

      Just because it hasn’t happen doesn’t mean that it won’t. Teams have mortgaged their future drafts on rookies but they also run a major risk of not knowing how they’re going to transition into the NFL. At this point, both Jones and RG3 have looked like good moves but if someone is willing to pull the trigger on the unknown, they know what they’ll get with Flacco.

      Yes, there is a lot to give up to get him but a team desperate for a quarterback and a GM who wants to take a gamble because they fell they’re only a good QB away from being a playoff team may be itching to pull the trigger.

      Look at the position the Chiefs are in. They have a new coach and GM and are literally a QB away from picking 1st in this years draft to a playoff team. Their defense is stout and they have some good offensive weapons, even though Bowe is a FA.

      The same can be said in Arizona where they are a decent team and have been getting killed because they don’t have a quarterback. They have a major investment in Larry Fitzgerald and are running the risk of losing a key marketable figure on their team because no one can throw him the ball.

      With the 1st overall pick, the Chiefs probably wouldn’t give that and another 1st rounder in 2014 to get Flacco, but, there aren’t any solid options for them at QB aside from an inconsistent Alex Smith (who will cost them something in a trade) and likely without a good quarterback, will be picking high, yet again, in the draft next year.

      If you give Flacco control and don’t restrict him from making decisions, he’s shown he’s a damn good quarterback. Cam Cameron was his problem, you can’t expect a guy to consistently be good when everyone knows the routes his offense is running before he even breaks the huddle.

      • Matthew on said:

        Let me caveat my earlier post to state that I do not wish for the Ravens to seriously consider allowing Joe to escape but merely think that the non-exclusive tag could be an effective tool in this situation.

        Kris, how many teams are in a position to genuinely be competitive by simply adding a QB AND have $20M+ in cap space available this year? The Chiefs currently have $14M in available cap space (without resolving the Albert, Bowe, and Colquitt contracts) while the Cardinals have about $725k available. And both of those scenarios (as I’ve mentioned) completely ignore the two first rounders they’d be giving up. My argument is simply that the non-exclusive tag is such a high price for any other team to steal Joe Flacco that I believe it to be a safe gamble that still gives the Ravens room to work out a better long term contract prior to the start of the season and the flexibility to retain other pending free agents.

        I enjoy the discussion and additional perspectives are extremely valuable. Thanks for the response, Kris.

        • SeaBass on said:

          seems to me the Browns are the team with available cap space and a huge need at the QB position.

          Actually getting a deal with Flacco would likely lower his cap number for 2013 and 2014 and the big hit would be in the out years of the contract when the cap will likely be much larger.

          • Matthew on said:

            Even if Cleveland picked up Flacco, I don’t think I’d classify them as genuinely competitive. I do agree that Cleveland is the largest threat to attempting the non-exclusive tag strategy, but I don’t think they can or would fork over the first rounders in order to steal Flacco, particularly when they’re only one year removed from burning a first round pick on Weeden.

            Indeed, if they worked out a long term contract, I’m sure it would be structured to weight the bulk of it toward the latter years when the cap is expected to increase significantly. I’m only speculating about the tag usage to get to that point in case a long term deal hasn’t been worked out by March 4th.

  6. Josh on said:

    Does anyone else feel the front office has had a plan in place to address our other free agents should they NOT sign Flacco to a long-term deal? The Ravens are too shrewd and prudent to not be prepared for anything.

  7. Alex on said:

    What do you guys think about a contract like this for Joe?
    8 years / $168,000,000 | $0 Signing Bonus | $21,000,000 avg/yr = Highest paid QB.
    Contract scaled annually at the 6.79% NFL historic salary cap.
    Cap Hits:
    2013: $16,500,000
    2014: $17,600,000
    2015: $18,800,000
    2016: $20,100,000
    2017: $21,500,000
    2018: $22,900,000
    2019: $24,500,000
    2020: $26,100,000
    I understand this offers Joe little security without a signing bonus, but knowing his confidence I think this is the type of deal that can keep him in Baltimore and keep our team strong.

    • Perry on said:

      Flacco would be nuts to agree to a contract without a signing bonus. In the above scenario if he gets a career ending injury during training camp, he gets cut and gets $0.

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