Brady recently signed an extension with the Patriots to the tune of a five-year deal worth $57 million, keeping him in a Patriots uniform until the age of 40 (per ESPN Boston). According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the move was made to free up more cap space for the franchise over the course of the next few years:
Patriots picked up $8 million in cap room this year, $7 million in cap room next off-season. Tom Brady helps NE win even in February.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 25, 2013
The deal is a shocking one, as Brady will only reel in around $12 million per year. That number is on the low end for a quality quarterback. Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos is bringing in $19 million a year, while New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is weighing in at $20 million per year.
Perhaps more shocking than the numbers themselves are Brady's comments on the deal, courtesy of Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 26, 2013
In an era where mediocre quarterbacks are making ridiculous money, Brady's attitude is refreshing. New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is making almost $13 million a year (per Spotrac). Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer is making $15 million in 2013 and even more down the road (per Spotrac).
Joe Flacco should be paying close attention.
Sure, Flacco led the Ravens to a Super Bowl in 2012 and brought home the Super Bowl MVP trophy, but if he ever wants to sniff Brady's three Super Bowl rings, he would be wise to follow his example when it comes to contracts.
Like the Patriots, the Ravens have a variety of crucial free agents set to hit the open market who could make it extremely difficult for the team to reach the big game again.
Key components for the future not named Flacco are set to become free agents. The team's best pass-rusher, Paul Kruger, tops that list. Veteran safety Ed Reed is another. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie, a critical element to the championship run, needs a new deal.
Role players such as linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and cornerback Cary Williams round out the list. Tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are restricted free agents.
Despite all this, Flacco and his agent are seeking a deal worth more than over $20 million per year, making him the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.
Now, to be fair to Flacco, Brady has had plenty of time to make his cash. According to Forbes, Brady is the No. 28 richest athlete in the world. His previous contract with New England was worth $72 million over the course of just four years.
It makes sense for Flacco to want so much money. His playoff heroics of throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions tied him with NFL greats Kurt Warner and Joe Montana.
Most of all, Flacco is just hitting his prime at 28 years old.
The question the Ravens organization has to ask themselves is simple: Would Flacco be asking to become the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL if Baltimore had lost the Super Bowl?
The only answer is no.
For whatever reason, winning a Super Bowl without fail creates the misconception that the winning quarterback is great (Trent Dilfer?). This makes zero sense, as football is the ultimate team sport. Flacco played well, but he could not have done it without the defense or stellar offensive line giving him time.
A better indicator of a quarterback's worth are career numbers. Flacco has an 86 quarterback rating over the course of his five-year career—not a horrible number by any means, but nowhere close to best in the NFL. Brady's is 96.6 over 13 years. Manning's is 95.7 over 15 years. Brees? 94.3 over 12 seasons.
Flacco and his agent have to come back down to earth at some point. If the two sides cannot agree to a deal with the organization, he will likely be hit with the exclusive tag, which will pay him $19.63 million (per The Baltimore Sun).
It's time for a decision from Flacco. He can continue to force the Ravens' hand in his pursuit of becoming the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL despite non-elite numbers, or he can sign a cap-friendly deal with the team in pursuit of more Lombardi Trophies.
He can't have it both ways.
Ozzie Newsome and Co. will do what they have to do to keep Flacco, that much they have proved over the years. If that means meeting his demands and gutting the roster to keep him, they will get it done one way or another.
Flacco should look to Brady for inspiration here. Is he about money or his legacy? Either way, it's a safe bet he will be in a Ravens uniform for a long time.
How much it costs the Ravens and their chances at a Super Bowl is Flacco's decision.