Baltimore Ravens Must Be Careful Offering Joe Flacco a Long-Term Deal

Ryan Phillips@@RumorsandRantsContributor IIIFebruary 2, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens in action against the New England Patriots during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

In what was a surprise to no one, Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and owner Steve Bisciotti have said that quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice will both be back with the team next year.

Rice still needs to get a deal done, but even if something is not worked out, Newsome claimed the team would use the franchise tag to ensure it retains him. 

As far as Flacco goes, the Ravens should be cautious when inking him to a long-term deal.

Flacco will be entering a contract year in 2012; the team clearly scaled back its offense and went run-heavy down the stretch to help him out. 

But the fact is, after four NFL seasons, Flacco has not proven himself as a legitimate franchise quarterback.

This year the 27-year-old completed 312 of 542 passes for 3,610 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. 

His passer rating of 80.9 ranked No. 18 out of the 34 quarterbacks who qualified league-wide.

His completion percentage (57.6) and yards per attempt (6.66) were both career-lows, and he also fumbled a career-high nine times.

On a team with a phenomenal defense and an outstanding running game, Flacco and the passing attack were clearly what held Baltimore back. 

To be fair, Flacco doesn't have the best weapons at his disposal, but with Torrey Smith developing into a legitimate threat, and if guys like Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans are back and healthy next season, he won't be able to use that excuse for long. 

I'm sure the Ravens want to believe Flacco is their quarterback of the future since it's almost always a step back for an organization to bring in and develop a new guy under center.

But Baltimore can't just lock the Delaware product up to the same type of contract other franchise quarterbacks would get simply because the team wants him to be the guy.

The Ravens must proceed with caution because, if anything, Flacco regressed this season.