Six games remain in the Baltimore Ravens 2012 season and yet they still haven't addressed one of last offseason's biggest concerns. When will Joe Flacco get his new contract? And how much money is the team willing to pay him?
This story has carried over through last spring and last summer. The Ravens had initially hoped to sort out Flacco's contract prior to the season so that they wouldn't have it hanging over their heads like it is now.
Flacco's agent didn't help things when he set the bar high by saying his client is a top-five quarterback. Then of course came Flacco's oft-criticized remarks where he set his agent straight by saying that he is the best quarterback in the NFL.
While these comments didn't necessarily stop negotiations, it doesn't seem as though they helped them. Negotiations continued throughout the offseason with the occasional report that a deal was close.
No deal materialized, though, and in September, the Ravens shelved all contract talks with Flacco. This move ensures that Flacco will play out his deal for the rest of the 2012 season, and the Ravens will wait until next offseason to decide how much they should pay him.
Now, regardless of whether or not a deal gets done, it's a near certainty that Flacco will be the Ravens starting quarterback in 2013. The Ravens could use the franchise tag on him in 2013 and possibly even 2014, even a deal doesn't get done.
While it's more likely that a deal will eventually get done, the length of time that has passed puts some doubt on the Ravens' relationship with Flacco. If they truly believed he was a top-five quarterback, or even just an elite one, odds are he would have a deal by now.
Some fans, and likely, some members of Ravens management, were hoping the 2012 season would shed some light on how good Flacco is. Well, much like his four previous seasons, it hasn't. Flacco is still inconsistent, as he will have great games and then in the next week, go out and have an awful game.
The 2012 season has actually provided some understanding as to why Flacco is so inconsistent. At home where the Ravens have won 15 consecutive games, he's got great numbers with 1,612 yards, 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.
On the road, his numbers are a lot different. He only has 883 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. The offense also averages around 17 points on the road, with Flacco frequently becoming erratic and leading the team to multiple three-and-outs, or worse, turning the ball over.
This type of inconsistency is not something that a team wants to see in its franchise quarterback. Thankfully, the Ravens have a strong team, and their 8-2 record stands as proof that they can still win games even if Flacco isn't playing well.
With 13 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a quarterback rating of 56.4, Flacco plain and simple does not deserve a mega contract. Unless he wins a Super Bowl or starts dominating on the road, I see no way that he gets anything in the neighborhood of Peyton Manning ($19.2 million) or Tom Brady ($18 million).
It's a lot more plausible that Flacco gets paid like the second tier quarterbacks of the NFL. Matt Schaub and Ben Roethlisberger are quarterbacks who perennially lead their teams to the playoffs. Schaub is being paid 15.5 million this season, and Roethlisberger, despite his two Super Bowl wins, is being paid 14.6 million this season.
I would expect the Ravens to pay Flacco in this range. It could be dangerous to hold out for more, though, because other teams would likely not be afraid to strike on Flacco if he ever reaches free agency.
He's already led his team to four (probably five) consecutive playoff appearances. He's got a record of 5-4 in the playoffs and has won nine or more games every season as a starter. You can't tell me that a team like Kansas City or Jacksonville doesn't pounce on him the moment he reaches free agency.
So while I'm selling Flacco of not being worthy of a mega contract, I still think he's a good quarterback. He might even have the potential to become a great quarterback. Still, he's good and should be paid in a mid-range level, and that is what I expect the Ravens to do when they get to contract negotiations this offseason.