Timing is the Key to Joe Flacco's Record-Setting Contract

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVMarch 2, 2013

When it comes to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco getting the largest contact in the history of the NFL, it's all about one thing: timing.

Flacco will be signing a contract on Monday reportedly worth $120 million over six years. While the details of the deal aren't available yet—Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said terms are still being worked out—the amount of money Flacco is getting and the length of the contract certainly indicate the team has faith in him.

But faith isn't what got Flacco so well-paid. Though the Ravens likely believe Flacco is their franchise quarterback, the record-setting amount is all about a confluence of events happening at exactly the right time.

Flacco and the Ravens attempted to come to an agreement on a new deal before the start of the 2012 season. The negotiations fell through, however, and he played out the final year of his rookie contract, in which he earned nearly $7 million, in hopes that the money would come once the season was over. 

Prior to the Super Bowl, Flacco seemed destined to receive the franchise tag, worth just under $15 million for 2013. However, his postseason performance, in which he threw for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions and led the franchise to its second Super Bowl victory, forced the Ravens to pay him like a top-tier quarterback, even though he's yet to throw for 4,000 yards in a regular season.

Negotiations tip in the favor of the party holding the most cards, and in this case, that was Flacco. An unrestricted free agent in 2013, Flacco gambled that he could get more money out of the Ravens at the conclusion of the 2012 season than what they offered him before it started. And he ended up having the biggest bargaining chip someone in his situation could posses—a Super Bowl MVP award.

Earning that award as the culmination of a nearly flawless four-game span of playoff performances is a good way to get a huge pay raise. When it happened at the same time that Flacco was about to become an unrestricted free agent, there was only one solution for the Ravens—pay Flacco, and handsomely, or potentially find themselves without a starting quarterback.

After all, which quarterback-needy team with a bit of money to burn wouldn't have tried to lure Flacco away for more than what Baltimore could offer him? There was no choice for the Ravens but to give Flacco the contract that he—and, of course, agent Joe Linta—had been seeking all along.

Linta spent months in 2012 as well as the early part of 2013 stating repeatedly that Flacco is among the best quarterbacks in the league and deserves to be paid as such. The pair got their wish, all by having the perfect circumstances come together at the perfect moment.

Timing is also crucial when it comes to announcing the deal. Although Flacco won't be signing it until Monday at the earliest, look for Flacco and the Ravens to hammer out the final little details as quickly as possible so that the deal can be finalized early in the morning.

This will give them enough time to use the franchise tag on another of their impending free agents—perhaps linebacker Dannell Ellerbe—before the late-afternoon deadline.

While there are few specifics available about Flacco's contract before it's been finalized, it's comfortable to assume that it's back-loaded.

Not only is this typical of the Ravens, with big-contract players like Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Lardarius Webb getting the bulk of their payday in later years, it also would allow the Ravens to free up extra cash in 2013 to pay a number of important free agents rather than letting them walk. 

Though we have yet to know how Flacco's money breaks down, how much of it is guaranteed and whether there are void options in its final year or two—and thus, we lack a clear picture of exactly how much the Ravens are truly investing in him and trusting him—we do know that the full cash payout is the biggest ever given out in the NFL, at least on paper. 

It speaks to Flacco's talent, to be sure, and it speaks to how he helped steer the Ravens to their franchise's second Lombardi Trophy. But more than anything, it speaks to how Flacco accomplished this at the most beneficial time to him—as an impending unrestricted free agent.

A deal this large for Flacco is a direct result of him winning Super Bowl MVP in a contract year. For NFL players looking to line their pockets with the best of them, Flacco's deal sends a clear message.

Timing is everything.


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