How Much Will It Cost the Baltimore Ravens to Keep Joe Flacco?

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How Much Will It Cost the Baltimore Ravens to Keep Joe Flacco?
Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco outdueled Andrew Luck, Peyton ManningTom Brady and Colin Kaepernick to win the Super Bowl and its MVP, all while tossing 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. 

Now, he's in line to get paid. At least that's the thought. 

In late January, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported the following (via Rotoworld): "I'm told his camp believes he is playing better than Peyton Manning. Manning makes ($19.2M) a year; expect them to shoot higher than that."

If the report holds true, Flacco and his "camp" are shooting for the monetary stars—a round figure of $20 million per year. 

John Clayton added the following on ESPN before the Super Bowl (via Rotoworld):

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. ... (We'll) see if he can get over Drew Brees' contract. I think he can.

Now that Flacco has the ultimate hardware, and the 2012 NFL season is complete, it's appropriate to explore how much it will cost the Ravens to keep their Super Bowl MVP quarterback. 

Unfortunately, we won't have the opportunity to sit in on Flacco's negotiations with the Ravens' front office. But chances are, Flacco's agent Joe Linta will kick off talks with a chart like this:

Name 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Base Salary
Tom Brady $21.8 million $9.75 million
Matthew Stafford $21.227 million $12 million
Eli Manning  $20.85 million $13 million
Ben Roethlisberger $20.595 million $11.6 million
Peyton Manning $20 million $20 million
Drew Brees $17.4 million $9.75 million
Tony Romo $17.228 million $11.5 million
Philip Rivers $17.110 million $12 million
Michael Vick $16.9 million $15.5 million
Carson Palmer $16.891 million $13 million
Matt Ryan  $10 million $10 million

 

Where does Flacco fit among those 11 quarterbacks? 

If we're basing on regular-season stats, the Ravens' signal-caller probably fits near the bottom. In his five professional seasons, he has averaged only 20.4 touchdown passes to 11.2 interceptions. 

But we're not solely basing on elementary regular-season stats. 

In fact, during his Super Bowl-winning campaign, Flacco connected on 50-of-123 passes thrown more than 20 yards down the field for 1,622 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions (per ProFootballFocus.com). 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

 

Comparatively, Aaron Rodgers finished with 980 yards, 12 touchdowns and three interceptions and completed 31-of-72 passes thrown 20 yards or further downfield in 2012.

Interesting, right?

In the end, the marvelous postseason performance rightfully will be Flacco's most powerful tool at the negotiating table.

 

When we base Flacco's worth on the famous "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately" adage, $20 million in annual compensation isn't out of the realm of possibility. 

Of the highest-paid quarterbacks listed above, only Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford are younger than the 28-year-old Flacco, so he holds even more leverage in terms of theoretical "prime" playing years remaining in his career.

That's important.

For reference, Eli Manning signed his seven-year, $106.9 million deal at the age of 28, a full year removed from toppling Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

In a perfect world, Flacco would receive a long-term contract that exceeds Eli's deal. 

Each party will likely pull from opposite ends—Flacco's camp heavily weighing the Super Bowl triumph and the Ravens front office citing pedestrian regular-season numbers. Ultimately, a contract between Eli and Peyton Manning's deals—six-years at slightly over 100 million—sounds reasonable. 

Though there are plenty of ways to structure such a hefty deal, Flacco should be happy with a contract that averages close to $17 million per year. Baltimore adding a few more million as a Super Bowl "thank you" could sweeten the deal to the point where Flacco signs on the dotted line. 

 

If a long-term agreement cannot be reached, which is a distinct possibility, the exclusive franchise tag is also an option—one that would buy the Ravens' management more time and pay Flacco around $20 million in 2013, according to the average cap numbers of the five highest-paid quarterbacks. 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com pointed out that "restructurings aimed at reducing those cap numbers would drop the average, pulling Flacco’s exclusive franchise tender lower. Still, the final number will be significantly higher than $14.6 million."

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$14.6 million is the projected regular franchise tag figure for quarterbacks, but as Florio put it, "The Ravens would be taking a huge risk by using the non-exclusive version of the tag, since a quarterback-needy and cap-rich team could be very tempted to give up two first-round picks for a crack at Flacco."

So, will Flacco be content with a six-year deal at or around the $100 million mark? Or would he rather go the franchise tag route, bank close to $20 million on a one-year deal in 2013, then hope to strike it super rich in 2014? 

Flacco's leverage is at an all-time high, and he shouldn't chance this potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to receive an extremely lucrative long-term contract. 

A total sum in the vicinity of $100 million with around $30 to $35 million in guaranteed money over six years is the likely price tag for the Ravens to keep their Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Baltimore.

And frankly, that's how much it should cost.

 

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