Simply put, the job of a professional sports agent is to work on behalf of clients to secure the best possible contracts. Most agents work well with team executives in hammering out fair and reasonable deals for their players, empirically based on the economic climate in the sport as well as a reasonable understanding of how valuable their client is to the team.
In other words, the agents have the supply. That supply gets paid based on each franchise's specific demand.
Of course, there are always outliers. Some agents seemingly love the spotlight for themselves—there is no better way to get more clients than securing very public deals for the ones you already work for—and some agents frankly rate their clients much higher in the supply chain than the teams do.
That's where Joe Flacco comes into the conversation.
Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, told the Baltimore Sun that Flacco "has to be in the top five." Linta is clearly an outlier. Or insane. Via PFT:
“If the game is about wins and losses, he has to be in the top five [quarterbacks],” Linta told Matt Vensel of the Baltimore Sun. “He is a player who has been extremely durable, never missed a game. And he’s done something that no one has ever done. In his four years in the league, he has never missed a game and has more wins than any other quarterback.”
Durability should certainly be a factor in any contract negotiation, but to assert that Flacco is one of the top five quarterbacks in the league because he's always on the field when his team wins is absolutely ludicrous, knowing full well the Ravens' success is built on stout defense and a punishing run game.
Flacco's agent asserts his client has more wins than any other starting quarterback over the last four seasons, but that's obviously thanks in part to Tom Brady missing almost the entire 2008 season and Peyton Manning missing all of last year. Oh, and it's also not true.
Drew Brees has missed just one game for the New Orleans Saints since the start of the 2008 campaign (Flacco's first), resulting in a loss to close out the 2009 regular season. Since 2008, the Saints have won 45 games with Brees, starting, playing and winning all of them.
In that same time frame, the Ravens have won 44 games. The Atlanta Falcons have won 43 games in that time frame with Matt Ryan—another member of the 2008 quarterback draft class—under center. Ryan does have one fewer win than Flacco, but has better career numbers in nearly every other measurable category.
Oh, and let's not forget Aaron Rodgers, who has 41 of Green Bay's 42 regular-season wins over that same time frame. True, that is a smaller number of wins than Flacco, but Rodgers also has over 3,200 more passing yards and 51 more passing touchdowns in that span. He also has a few more playoff wins, including that one last year when he held up a shiny trophy and a championship belt.
Speaking of trophies, two other quarterbacks of this generation, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, have multiple titles while Flacco has yet to even make the Super Bowl. Yes, both quarterbacks have been in the league longer than Flacco, but both have won Super Bowls since Flacco has been in the league, with Roethlisberger going to title games while beating Flacco in the playoffs twice in the last four years.
So, sure, there are wins. But then there are playoff wins. In four seasons, Flacco only has five of them.
Wait just a minute. I've fallen into Linta's trap. (What a fantastic pun I just stumbled upon there!) Wins can't matter as much as actual quarterback performance, can they? Flacco may have one of the best wining percentages in the league over the course of his career, but his other percentages aren't close to the top five at all.
According to Pro-Football-Reference.com, Flacco is 13th among active quarterbacks in passing yards per game. He's 17th in net yards per pass attempt (though moves up to 11th in adjusted, which accounts for touchdown passes and interceptions). Flacco is 14th in active completion percentage and 12th in active passer rating, 13th and 11th if Jeff Garcia is no longer playing.
While Flacco is tied for fifth in interception percentage, he's 27th out of 42 listed in active quarterbacks in sack percentage. Oh, and perhaps the most telling stat of all is that he has orchestrated just 11 game-winning drives in his career (Ryan has 16) and has as many comebacks (6) as Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton.
Sure, those stats could be attributed to playing with the lead and not needing to come back in games, but that does just as much damage to Flacco's value to the Ravens as any of his other mediocre stats.
None of this is to say Flacco is a bad quarterback. Flacco is a fine quarterback. Statistically speaking, Flacco is an above-average quarterback.
But he is not a top five quarterback.
Flacco is probably not even in the top ten. In fact, if you consider guys we haven't mentioned like Philip Rivers, Tony Romo and oft-injured Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick and a few others, there's a case to be made that Flacco isn't even in the top half of starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Most people would probably take Flacco over Schaub and Cutler at this point, but is there another quarterback mentioned in this entire article you would take Flacco ahead of?
Still, he wins. That is to say his team wins. And most franchises that win don’t like rocking too many boats. Obviously, the Ravens need to secure Ray Rice first and foremost, and then after that, it does make sense to sign Flacco for a fair deal, all in an effort to keep a good team together and avoid having to reboot with another signal caller.
Having said that, if it will take top-five money to keep Flacco, rebooting may not be the worst option.
There is no way Flacco will get that kind of money from any other team, meaning Linta is probably just laying an early foundation for in-house negotiations. He should come to his senses soon, so he doesn't get his client trapped in a bad situation of his own doing.
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