It's a tale of two contracts. However, for two elite NFL quarterbacks, it is definitely the best of financial times.
Tom Brady, with three Super Bowls to his credit, agreed to a relatively modest three-year, $27 million contract extension with the Patriots that keeps him in New England to presumably the end of his career. Meanwhile, Joe Flacco immediately cashed in on his recent Super Bowl victory with a six-year deal worth more than $120 million, making him the highest paid quarterback in NFL history.
Prior to the season, Flacco opted to play out his contract this year and let his play do the negotiating. That gamble played out well for the Ravens' former first-round pick. Flacco excelled this postseason, throwing for nearly 1,200 yards with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions en route to the Ravens' first Super Bowl victory in over a decade.
Despite falling short of the Super Bowl this year, Tom Brady, considered one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, scored a contract extension at lower than market value. The 12-year veteran could have easily demanded a more lucrative contract, but he decided to accept a hometown discount to remain competitive. His extension frees up cap space and allows the Patriots the possibility of retaining key free agents such as Wes Welker and Sebastian Vollmer.
Brady might not be the only quarterback restructuring his contract. The National Football Post reports that Peyton Manning may restructure his contract with the Denver Broncos. The future Hall of Famer twice restructured the seven-year contract he signed with the Colts. He did so after winning the Super Bowl in 2007 to try to preserve much of the championship team by alleviating $8.2 million in cap space.
Eli Manning, another Super Bowl-winning quarterback, allowed the Giants to restructure his contract last May in order to free up cap space. Ben Roethlisberger, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Steelers, also recently restructured his contract to clear nearly $6 million in cap space for 2013.
In December 2012, during a radio interview with ESPN Chicago, Jay Cutler said he would be willing to consider giving the Bears a hometown discount and play for less money to give the team more cap flexibility. In February, Michael Vick also restructured his existing contract with the Eagles; however, his motivation may have been to avoid being cut by the team.
Fresh off their championship win, the Ravens have made a huge investment in retaining their franchise quarterback. However, the terms of Flacco’s contract will make it more difficult for Baltimore to acquire and retain free agents from 2016 to 2018, as the average cap hit between those years will top $28 million (23 percent of the league’s current salary cap).
Repeating will be difficult. The Ravens undoubtedly will have a big hole to with the retirement of 13-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis, one of the NFL's all-time greats. The team may also lose other star defensive stars such as Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Ed Reed, who are all free agents. The market for Kruger, one of best pass rushers available this offseason, will be high.
Top NFL talent comes at a premium, and playing careers in football are much shorter than in other sports. No one should begrudge players for cashing in when their value is at its peak. However, what we see in Brady, Roethlisberger and the Manning brothers, four of the most successful quarterbacks to ever play the game, are leaders who opted to forgo squeezing every penny from their employers in order to help their teams remain competitive.
The Ravens have invested their future in Flacco, if he will consider a "hometown" discount to keep his team competitive during the later years of his record-setting contract.