Was Joe Flacco's Massive Contract Extension Worth It for the Baltimore Ravens?

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Was Joe Flacco's Massive Contract Extension Worth It for the Baltimore Ravens?
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Flacco has felt the pressure this season after signing one of the largest contracts in NFL history.

After a magical playoff run in 2012, the Baltimore Ravens rewarded quarterback Joe Flacco with a contract that made him the highest paid NFL player at the time, based on average annual salary.

The six-year, $120.6 million extension demonstrated the value of a Super Bowl MVP quarterback. Aaron Rodgers followed suit by supplanting Flacco of that honor less than two months later with a five-year, $110 million contract.

But with big money comes high expectations, and a 3-5 start to the season hasn't done anything to support the decision made by the Ravens front office.

It also doesn't help that the club's third-straight loss came at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, a team that hadn't beaten Baltimore in 11-straight contests.

Now, let's be fair. The struggles of the Ravens season cannot all be placed on the shoulders of Flacco.

The offensive line has surrendered 25 sacks this season, ranking seventh in sacks allowed per game (3.13). The running game has been nonexistent, averaging 71.6 yards per game, which is the fourth worst (29th) in the NFL.

However, that still doesn't take Baltimore's signal-caller off the hook. Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun recently examined the issue and had this to say:

...Flacco has played like he has throughout most of his career where he has been inconsistent and streaky. He has been far from elite. Overall, he is a good quarterback, but his play varies from game to game, half to half and even quarter to quarter.

With a passer rating of 79.3 this season, Flacco ranks 24th in the NFL behind players like Ryan Tannehill (80.8) and Jake Locker (91.0). With a salary just over $3 million per year for both quarterbacks, it's fair to say the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans are getting a little more bang for their buck.

Also, the issue with Flacco's contract isn't so much how expensive it is this year, it's the cap hit the team will take in future seasons, which limits the supporting cast that Baltimore can surround its prized investment.

This season, Flacco contributes a relatively modest cap hit of $6.8 million; not bad for a contract that averages $20.1 million over its entirety if fully executed.

But the cap hit balloons to $14.8 million in 2014, $14.55 million in 2015 and $28.55 million in 2016.

If the Ravens were unable to add the level of talent this season for Flacco, how will they manage as his contract continues to creep higher and higher?

The peak of impact is in 2017, where the cap hit reaches $31.15 million. In 2018, it dips down to $24.75 million. Both years are optional, with unguaranteed base salaries of $20.6 million and $20 million.

When looking at the big picture, it becomes very difficult to justify the massive contract. Timing is everything, though, and winning a Super Bowl just prior to negotiating an extension puts all of the chips in a player's favor.

If Flacco continues with this shaky performance over the next few years, it will become even more glaring in comparison to other quarterbacks across the league. 

Compared to Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, two players with contracts around the $20 million mark, he simply does not stack up. 

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have a combined record of 13-3 in 2013.

Even as poor as the entire Ravens team has played this year, one can easily argue that if you put either of the aforementioned quarterbacks under center in Baltimore, the team would be better than 3-5.

The New Orleans Saints similarly don't have a strong rushing attack with 79.8 yard per game, ranking 26th in the league. Yet the team led by Brees is 6-2.

The Denver Broncos have one of the worst defenses in the league, ranking 30th in passing yards allowed (299.1) and 25th in points allowed (27.3). But Manning has led the team to a 7-1 record.

Every team in the NFL has flaws. The difference between a winning and losing season almost always rests with the quarterback.

That's not to say that Flacco has played terribly. He has stayed positive in a difficult environment and continues to have leadership qualities and a strong work ethic. 

The problem is that you still pay for results when everything else is stripped away. And as it stands today, the Ravens front office is likely feeling a bit of buyer's remorse.

 

Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted. Contract details courtesy of Spotrac.com.

Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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