Baltimore Ravens: Could 2012 Be Joe Flacco's Final Season with the Team?

James Reagan@@James__ReaganCorrespondent IIApril 12, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:   Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens gets tackled by  Vince Wilfork #75 of the New England Patriots during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

One of the Baltimore Ravens' top priorities during the 2012 offseason is to re-sign Joe Flacco. There are a myriad of reasons why they need to do this, but perhaps the main one is that both the Ravens and Flacco want to avoid the drama of him playing out a final season without a guaranteed contract.

So naturally at an important stage of these negotiations, Flacco says that he's the best quarterback in the NFL

It's a baffling comment for Flacco to make even in more ordinary circumstances. At this point in his career with zero MVP wins, zero Super Bowl wins and zero Pro Bowl appearances, it's pretty clear that Flacco isn't the best quarterback in the NFL. Even the most diehard Ravens fan will be hard pressed to come up with an argument otherwise.

So, is it possible that with all these factors, Flacco won't get the contract extension after all? Could it be possible to go even further and suggest that 2012 will be his final year in a Ravens jersey? 

Right now that may sound like a ludicrous statement. Flacco and his agent have many months left to negotiate the contract with the Ravens. Even if they didn't get anything done for several more months, it's still probable that they'll find a way to get a contract done.

But if we think about the contract situation, this farfetched scenario actually makes some sense. As the supposedly best quarterback in the NFL, Flacco is going to want to be paid like it. And there's no way that the Ravens will be up for shelling away that much money.  

We've also got to realize that Flacco's statement inadvertently puts pressure on himself. Now that he said he's the best, people are going to expect him to come out and play like the best. This could create a situation where Flacco feels a lot of pressure and there has already been several games throughout his career where it could be argued that he folded under pressure. 

If a contract isn't reached before the 2012 season and Flacco has a bad season, the Ravens would be placed in an interesting spot. They could choose not to re-sign Flacco and instead let him walk while they look for a new franchise quarterback. 

It could be argued that Flacco has reached some sort of peak at this point in his career. During the last three years, Flacco has thrown 21, 25, and 20 touchdowns. While decent numbers, these are a far cry from the typical 35+ touchdowns that elite quarterbacks can manage on a yearly basis.

It also could be argued that he has peaked in terms of yardage. The last three years he has thrown for around 3,610 yards. And the interception numbers, while not necessarily terrible, have stayed consistently around 10 a season. 

After looking at these numbers, perhaps getting rid of Flacco doesn't seem so farfetched anymore. With the 2013 draft class having quarterbacks like Landry Jones and Denard Robinson, the Ravens could potentially put together a trade package for a good quarterback. Or if they wanted to, they could go the free agent route and pick up someone like Matt Schaub. 

Obviously a lot has to happen for any of this to fall into place. For now, both Flacco and the Ravens have said all the right things about each other. It seems like both parties are committed to Flacco being the quarterback of the future for the Ravens. 

However, all it would take is one bad season or a negotiation breakdown for things to change drastically. In the ever-changing landscape of today's NFL, these are the kind of things that happen pretty regularly.

For now, Flacco has to focus on doing his best to become the "best quarterback in the NFL." One thing everyone can agree on is that he has a lot of work to do to get to that level. Let's hope that he progresses to the point where he can clearly put himself in the category of elite quarterbacks.

If not, both the Ravens and Joe Flacco could really be in for some big changes during the 2013 season. 


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