Baltimore Ravens: Should Joe Flacco Take a Cheaper Contract to Keep Team Intact?

James Reagan@@James__ReaganCorrespondent IIFebruary 8, 2013

Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) and running back Anthony Allen (35) celebrate winning Super Bowl XLVII against the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
Cystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Now that he's a Super Bowl MVP who just completed a postseason run for the ages, Joe Flacco is in a position where he can expect a big contract. This Super Bowl win couldn't have come at a better time for Flacco either, as he's scheduled to be a unrestricted free agent once the league year begins in March.

The Super Bowl win gives Flacco and agent Joe Linta lots of leverage to argue for an expensive deal. In fact, Linta wants this deal to make Flacco the highest-paid quarterback in the entire NFL.

Remarkable postseason run withstanding, the Ravens would lose a lot of money should Linta get his wishes. Last year's highest-paid quarterback was Drew Brees with $20 million last season. He's followed not too far behind by Peyton Manning, who made $18 million in his first season with the Denver Broncos.

Ozzie Newsome has taken the stance that the Ravens will give Flacco a fair deal. What is fair though, and could it be possible that Flacco's camp and Newsome will disagree on the definition of fair?

Flacco's Super Bowl win makes him the seventh active quarterback to win one, and like the other six, there are now people calling him elite. It's not that surprising, really, with the NFL being a quarterback-driven league that is always on the lookout for new stars. 

Is Flacco truly elite though? Even the most staunch Flacco fans have difficulty defending his regular-season stats, where he averages 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions a season. He's also never been named to a Pro Bowl and he's never finished a season higher than 11th in passing yards.

Linta and Flacco need to look to the postseason, where Flacco has an NFL-record six road wins, to get a blockbuster deal. He also put up 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions with a 117.2 QB rating that ranks among the all-time best quarterback performances in the playoffs.

There are more factors to consider, though, than whether or not Flacco is elite, the main one being that this is an offseason where many key players are facing free agency.

Ray Lewis is already lost to retirement, but the defense's other surefire future Hall of Famer could leave. Ed Reed made $7 million in 2012, and at age 35, it's hard to justify him making that much money.

The defense has question marks all over the place. Three other key players—Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger and Cary Williams—are all unrestricted free agents. Each player played a key role in the Ravens' postseason run, and if the Ravens were to let them go, they could likely get a decent payday from another team.

The offense also could lose important players. Vonta Leach, arguably the best fullback in the NFL, may need to be cut as the fullback position becomes used in fewer and fewer plays.

Both Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are restricted free agents too, while older offensive linemen like Matt Birk and Bryant McKinnie could retire. 

The point is there are a lot of other players besides Flacco that need to be paid for the Ravens to contend in 2013 and beyond. The Ravens are already over the salary cap, and crucial players like Ellerbe will not be cheap to re-sign.

Players are going to be cut regardless of what happens with Flacco. Still, Flacco could help by being a team player and not demanding a top-five quarterback contract, something he hasn't fully earned until he has better regular-season numbers.

One thing's for sure: As Super Bowl champions, the Ravens' offseason moves will receive lots of attention. Newsome's offseason moves are a main reason why they are consistent contenders, though, so Ravens fans can feel confident that he will make smart moves.

As for Flacco, the amount of money he settles on will tell us a lot about him. Does he refuse to budge from the paycheck of an elite quarterback? Or can he take a little less and possibly help the Ravens in retaining a key player?

Even in the offseason, the NFL provides plenty of storylines. Hopefully for Flacco and the Ravens, this contract can be satisfying to both parties and get the team on track to prepare for a successful 2013 season.