Ravens had no choice but to pay Flacco big time

Ravens had no choice but to pay Flacco big time
March 1, 2013, 9:30 pm
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NFL Network's Ian Rapoport on Joe Flacco's new deal

Joe Flacco essentially rolled the dice and won, big time.

Flacco and his agent, Joe Linta, walked away from an offer from the Ravens before last season, reportedly in the neighborhood of $16 million a year. That's a pretty swanky neighborhood to walk away from, but Flacco and Linta clearly made a high-risk bet that Flacco's play this season could drive up his price tag.

It looked like a foolish proposition after Flacco and the Ravens lost early in the season to Philadelphia and looked positively ordinary in a 9-6 win at lowly Kansas City. But fast forward about four months, and Flacco was holding the Vince Lombardi Trophy as confetti fell around him at the Super Bowl. He was being handed the keys to a new car as the Super Bowl MVP, after a playoff run for the ages, in which he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.

With Flacco's rookie contract expiring after the Super Bowl, the Ravens had a choice: Put the franchise tag on him, or work out a long-term deal that puts Flacco under center in Baltimore for the long haul. Reports Friday night indicate that the Ravens and Flacco have indeed worked out a long-term deal, reportedly for six years and in the neighborhood of $120 million. The contract is to be finalized and signed on Monday.

Truth be told, though, the Ravens didn't have a choice. They had to, as coach John Harbaugh begged after a season-opening win over Cincinnati, "pay the man!"

Really, what were the Ravens options? If they slapped the exclusive franchise tag on Flacco for one season, he would have cost about $20 million toward the salary cap. Although the exact numbers, the guaranteed dollars, the signing bonus have not been disclosed, it's safe to assume the long-term deal has a lesser cap hit this season. With Flacco's franchise tag eating up so much cap space, it's possible Vonta Leach, Anquan Boldin or other veterans would have to be jettisoned. A long-term, more cap-friendly deal makes that less likely.

Also, the exclusive tag could have engendered a lot of ill will between the generally stoic Flacco and the Ravens. After all, the tag is essentially a one-year deal, not much of a vote of confidence for a quarterback that just took your team to the Super Bowl title.

Applying the nonexclusive tag, at a cost of roughly $14.6 million, would bring even more problems. Namely, a team with a lot of cap space could swoop in with a huge offer the cap-challenged Ravens couldn't match and gladly give up two No. 1 picks for the reigning Super Bowl MVP, who at age 28 is in the prime of his career.

No, the only choice for the Ravens was to back up the money truck to Flacco's house. Ravens vice president and chief "capologist" Pat Moriarty, owner Steve Bisciotti and the rest of the front office will no doubt try to crunch the numbers to keep the Ravens in the best possible position to hold on to their veterans and still make a play for free agents.

In the end, though, every team in the NFL wants to think it has a quarterback with the ability to win the Super Bowl. In Flacco, the Ravens have it. He proved it. They simply couldn't afford to let him get away.

Now, thanks to Flacco's bold gamble last offseason, and his superb play this postseason, that won't be happening. He'll be a Raven, and a very rich one, for a long time.