Entering the playoffs, there were a lot of questions about Joe Flacco's future. After proving doubters wrong en route to a Super Bowl victory on Sunday night, the Baltimore Ravens should answer those questions by rewarding him with a huge long-term contract extension.
Flacco has never been, and will probably never be, the NFL's most exciting quarterback. But he's illustrated the ability throughout his career to win the big games—none bigger than beating the favored San Francisco 49ers last night—and that's what teams are looking for.
There would be a mad scramble from teams around the NFL if the Ravens let Flacco, who's a pending unrestricted free agent, hit the open market. But there's no way one of the league's top franchises is going to let that happen.
While the franchise tag is an option, Baltimore should do everything in its power to keep Flacco happy by inking him to the long-term deal every player seeks. He wants to remain with the Ravens for his entire career, according to ESPN.com.
"I'm a Raven for life. That's the way I see it," said Flacco, who will be in Disney on Monday for the annual day-after-Super Bowl parade.
Running back Ray Rice made his thoughts about the team's quarterback crystal clear after the game in a comment passed along by the Ravens' official Twitter feed.
“Joe Flacco’s the best quarterback in football right now." - Ray Rice— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) February 4, 2013
Although calling him the best quarterback bar none is stretching it a bit, he definitely belongs in the upper echelon after his amazing postseason run. Quarterbacks in that class get paid a lot of money, and Flacco deserves every last penny.
In a sport where playoff success ultimately defines a player's legacy, the Delaware product added a major accomplishment to his résumé in one of the most exciting and bizarre Super Bowls fans will ever witness.
It marked the end of a postseason run that saw Flacco throw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was above 100 in all four games and checked in at 117.2 overall.
Equally impressive is the fact he defeated Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick to win the championship. Brady and Manning are two of the best quarterbacks to ever step foot on an NFL field, while Luck and Kaepernick are among the position's brightest young stars.
Flacco now holds a 9-4 record in the playoffs, and there should be absolutely no talk about other players carrying him to the title. He was the one that put the team on his back when it mattered most. His play was impeccable.
Manning and Drew Brees both signed new contracts before the season, which should provide a pretty good guide for Flacco's upcoming negotiations. Something in the range of $20 million per season over five years is the starting point.
As Ray Lewis rides off into the sunset with the Lombardi Trophy in hand, the Ravens need to send a message that the franchise is going to remain a contender even without the man who's led the charge for nearly two decades.
Giving Flacco the long-term deal he earned would be a major step. He's one of the players that needs to be a leader and ensure the team doesn't miss a beat without Lewis' amazing enthusiasm to motivate it.
That's more responsibility and dollar signs. After watching Flacco dominate over the past four games, though, the Ravens should be more than willing to reward him.
Getting a long-term deal done should be the team's top offseason priority. After taking a couple days to celebrate the championship, of course.