It’s never too early to start looking ahead at some of the biggest issues facing the Baltimore Ravens during the off-season and beyond. Both myself and Mike Randall will take turns giving our take on several of the most pressing questions in the coming weeks and as usual we hope to spur some intelligent thought and discussion on the matters at hand.
So let’s start with the most important position on the offense, the man under center Joe Flacco.
Flacco is currently in the fifth and final year of his first NFL contract which had with it a maximum value of around $30 million and $8.75 million guaranteed. I don’t think there’s much question at this point that the Ravens would want to retain Flacco’s services with a new contract at this point, though after Sunday night’s performance some may want to debate me on that. The bigger question may be how an extension would look in terms of length of contract, guaranteed money, total value and its effect on the salary cap or if the Ravens might use the Franchise tag next season to hold on to him if a deal can not be reached.
Currently the going rate for a top-five quarterback is about $16-$20 million per year (by average salary) where anywhere between $48-$61 million is allotted during the first three seasons of the deal with much of that money being guaranteed. Is Joe Flacco in that select class of signal callers of the NFL. I’d say No. If that’s the case then where does hit fit on the quarterback hierarchy?
I think Matt Schaub’s 4-year $62 million dollar extension he signed with the Texans at the start of the season would be a good place to start. Schaub may be four years older but his role in the Texans offense may be similar to Flacco’s in Baltimore. I’d feel a bit more comfortable if his extension were somewhere in this range though you have to wonder what the Ravens front office may be thinking about Flacco’s prospects in the future.
Has he hit his ceiling in his fifth season or does he still have room to grow at age twenty seven?
Either way it would make sense for Baltimore to try and get a deal finalized before the season is over and at a more market friendly price. The team will need to be careful here because I could easily see a another team willing to overpay of him on the open market yet if the team views Flacco as a mix of game manager/cannon armed deep ball specialist then the contract should reflect that and not among the top ten quarterbacks in the league.
For now it looks like both sides will wait and see where things play out in 2012.
I’d be very surprised to see the Ravens franchise Flacco for next season because it would simply cost them too much. The exclusive franchise tag, which would prohibit Flacco from negotiating with other teams, is projected to preliminarily jump from $16.371 million this year to $20.513 million next year. Since it will based on the average of the top-five quarterback salaries (i.e.; salary cap numbers) in 2013 once the restricted free agent signing period has ended, it could be lower if quarterbacks (Stafford, Roethlisberger, Brady, etc.) with the highest 2013 cap numbers restructure their 2013 contracts to create cap room for their clubs.
The non-exclusive franchise number, which is calculated over a five-year period that’s tied to a percentage of the overall salary cap, can’t be determined until the 2013 cap is set. Assuming the cap is set at $121 million, Flacco’s 2013 non-exclusive franchise number will be $14.5 million. If the Ravens applied a second franchise tag to Flacco, his franchise number in 2014 would be $17.4 million, a 20% increase over his 2013 franchise number.
Does it really make that much sense to tie up those kind of dollar amounts to Flacco? I don’t think so either.
I’d think that the Ravens would offer right around Schaub money and then the ball is in Flacco’s court. I really wonder if he’d be willing to test the market to see his true worth and would the front office be willing to let him try.