Colin Kaepernick has a chance Sunday to cement his name in the championship lore of the San Francisco 49ers, but the quarterback who has the most gain at Super Bowl XLVII is undoubtedly Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens.
Status, reputation and (above all) money will each be on the line when Flacco starts his first ever Super Bowl Sunday.
An unrestricted free agent who is playing the last game on his rookie deal, Flacco has the enviable opportunity of cashing in after a Super Bowl win like no quarterback ever has. A victory over the 49ers would place Flacco in position to be paid amongst the top five at his position this spring.
Even without a win, Flacco is going to get paid—likely handsomely. The Ravens can either offer a sufficient long-term deal or franchise tag their quarterback at around $14.6 million. Win or lose, Flacco will be playing in Baltimore next season for a large sum of cash.
But a win Sunday at the Super Bowl should elevate Flacco in both the status and contractual hierarchy of NFL quarterbacks.
Flacco, a winner of eight playoff games and an NFL-record six road games in five years, has already brought himself to the very edge of the mythical plateau of "elite" quarterbacks.
This postseason alone, Flacco has thrown eight touchdowns against zero interceptions in beating both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on the road. Over the Ravens' final seven games, Flacco threw for 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
A win in the Super Bowl would cap off a postseason run at the quarterback position that has few rivals in history of the NFL.
Still, no one would mistake Flacco as the best quarterback in the league, and few would say he's cracked the top four of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Manning and Brady. But adding a championship ring to his 2013 postseason gives Flacco the kind of career accomplishment that would fairly put him in discussion.
With that perceived title also comes "elite" money.
Here are some of the recent contracts signed by NFL quarterbacks:
- Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Five years, $96 million, including $18 million guaranteed. Will make $20 million in base salary in 2013.
- Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Five years, $100 million, including $40 million guaranteed. Will make $9.75 million in base salary in 2013.
- Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: Six years, $100 million, including $32.5 million guaranteed. Will make $15.5 million in base salary in 2013.
- Tom Brady, New England Patriots: Five years, $78.5 million, including $48.5 million guaranteed. Will make $14.75 million in base salary in 2013.
- Eli Manning, New York Giants: Seven years, $106.9 million, including $35 million guaranteed. Will make $13 million in base salary in 2013.
How high can a Super Bowl win vault Flacco in total contractual value? That's a debatable point. But Flacco's camp apparently thinks that a $20-million-a-year deal is already in the cards.
From ESPN's John Clayton, via Pro Football Talk:
He’s now made a case for $20 million a year. And I think he’s gonna try to hold to that. Last season what I was hearing was he was asking for about $17 million. … But he was saying ‘okay fine, let me play this out.’ Now he’s in a position to make big money. And we’ll see if he can get over Drew Brees’ contract. I think he can.
A win in the Super Bowl—especially if Flacco continues playing historically well—would likely ensure that his camp asks for top money.
The Ravens can still slap the franchise tag on Flacco if negotiations get out of hand, but taking that kind of one-year cap hit will be tough for Baltimore to swallow. Franchise-tagging a quarterback at nearly $15 million would handcuff general manager Ozzie Newsome, so there's leverage and anticipation on both sides.
A long-term deal, in which the Ravens have to budge more towards Flacco, is the most likely ending, especially if Baltimore wins Sunday.
Of course, Flacco's opposite signal caller Sunday will have the pressure of 49ers' history to deal with.
In five previous Super Bowls, 49ers quarterbacks have produced five wins, 19 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. The championship lore in San Francisco includes Joe Montana and Steve Young, two of the greatest at their position in NFL history.
With a win over Flacco in Super Bowl XLVII, Kaepernick can begin his own chapter in the 49ers' long history on the game's biggest stage.
But win or lose, Kaepernick won't have to worry about any kind of contract extension or improvement following the Super Bowl. Thanks to the new CBA, players must wait three years into their original deal before any alterations can be made. Fair or foul, Kaepernick is stuck with his current deal—$5.22 million over four years.
Kaepernick has much to gain, but Sunday's biggest prize is sitting in front of Flacco.
Very few opportunities come along like the one Flacco currently has in store Sunday: A chance to not only cash in on a massive long-term contract, but also cement his status as one of the game's most accomplished quarterbacks by winning the ultimate prize.
Flacco has everything to gain Sunday at Super Bowl XLVII.