The song Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes may be the unofficial theme song of the Baltimore Ravens players and fans during the past two seasons but an old classic by the Canadian band, Bachman–Turner Overdrive has no doubt proven to be the mantra by which the Ravens front office has operated since the team’s arrival in 1996.
On Friday, the Ravens front office—and as they always seem to do this time of the year were “Taking Care of Business" by agreeing in principal with their franchise quarterback on a new record contract. Following nearly 15 months of on again and off again negotiations, The Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco agreed on what will be the richest contract in the history of the National Football League.
According to a source within the Ravens organization, as reported by Jay Glazer of Fox Sports Friday, Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens have agreed to terms on a six-year contract worth $120.6 million, with a $20.1 million average, making the Super Bowl MVP the highest-paid player in league history. Heading into his sixth season as the Ravens signal caller, Flacco now owns the contract to which every other contract signed the rest of the NFL free agency, which officially begins March 12, will be compared.
When a player, at any position signs a deal either with his current team, or a new one—you are likely to hear pundits say, “While it’s not Joe Flacco money, it’s still a good deal”—–or “Not a good deal”.
IS ANY PLAYER WORTH THIS TYPE OF MONEY?
Let me first clarify one thing and this is strictly my opinion, no man that plays a game, regardless of television deals, merchandise revenue, ticket sales, or championships won, is worth as much money as Joe Flacco will sign for. No player is worth that kind of money in any sport.
With that said, Joe Flacco deserves the deal he was eligible to receive based on the money his game pays for the top performing players at his position. It is not by any means Flacco’s fault that his profession pays this type of money.
All things considered and based on the numerous sources reporting on the contract, the Ravens have indeed taken care of business by getting this deal done before they had to attach the franchise tag to No.5. They also– and how they did so remains to be seen, have made this a “salary cap friendly” deal for the organization. Stay tuned on that one.
A big key is going to be how the guaranteed money, which is reportedly between $60 million and $70 million, is distributed over the life of the contract.
One thing that cannot be debated is the fact that the timing of the deal is perfect on every level for all parties involved. GM Ozzie Newsome and company now have nearly 11 days to work potential new contracts for some of the other high-tiered free agents.
Once Flacco signs and before the ink dries, Newsome and the Ravens front office will turn their attention towards Dannell Ellerbe, Paul Kruger, Ed Reed, Carey Williams and possibly even Bryant McKinnie. They may even look to give extensions as well as re-work some deals for players like Anquan Boldin. The Ravens have needs as the defending champions. They must sure up the middle of the offense and especially the defense. The retirement of Ray Lewis and center Matt Birk has left a big void.
The deal also creates harmony with the team’s new leader. Ever heard the expression “Happy wife, happy life”. Much the same can be said of having a happy franchise quarterback.
Placing the franchise tag on Flacco may have meant that he skipped mini-camps and OTA’s as Ray Rice did last season while he carried the label of “franchise running back”. Rice was forced to miss but having Flacco at these off-season events ensures a fresh start with new OC Jim Caldwell, who is likely to build on the great success he and Flacco shred during the playoffs with a somewhat new playbook.
MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL:
A contract like this brings some negatives. No longer can Joe Cool remain as cool, calm and collected during the down times. There will be a new sense of urgency for No.5 not to lose the second game of the season and to have a better than below average NFL completion percentage. All of which, if you watched Flacco progress during the postseason, you know he can do.
Flacco will not be allowed to be a top 10 QB on the outside of the top eight looking in. He cannot be an on the cusp of elite status type of quarterback. He is not making on the cusp money. Whether or not you feel the Ravens quarterback is an elite signal caller– or not, there is no debating whether his contract is.
While currently Flacco may not be able to boast passing numbers like the New Orleans Saints Drew Brees or Denver Broncos Peyton Manning for his career, he stands ahead of both in line at the bank. Flacco’s deal is likely to be surpassed by the ones Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers sign eventually but for now, Joe Cool is the man.
Brees signed a five-year, $100 million contract last July that guaranteed him $60 million. The Broncos gave Peyton Manning a five-year deal worth up to $96 million in March 2012. Flacco will average $62 million over the first three years, which is $1 million more than Brees in the first three years of his deal.
Brees and Manning are elite players, and so is Flacco’s contract. Flacco is expected to sign the deal on Monday with the team that drafted him 18th overall out of Delaware in 2008. Based on the $120.6 million deal, he will make an average of $168,908 each day of the regular season for the next six years.
Flacco is behind the eight ball with a contract like this. The contract will always be brought up first if the Ravens or he struggles at any time. Lose three in a row this December this year and things will be a lot louder in the local and national media than it was this past December when Baltimore did just that.
It seems almost impossible that any player could outperform those types of dollars and there will be plenty of critics—far more than usual now that he has become a millionaire at the very least 60 times over. Now this is the NFL and do not be fooled by the $120.6 million total. Only the guaranteed money matters and Flacco will also need to perform to certain incentives. All of the details have yet to emerge such as those incentives and guaranteed money. In all likelihood, Flacco will not have to outperform $120 million.
Ask any Yankees or Texas Rangers fan and they will most assuredly tell you Alex Rodriguez never came close to performing up to the expectations his $250 million deal begged. According to Jamison Hensley of ESPN, Flacco's salary-cap number is $7 million, which is $12 million lower than the cap hit from the exclusive franchise tag.
ELITE OR NOT ELITE AND DOES IT EVEN MATTER:
This is mission accomplished for both sides. Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta told USA Today that the deal was meant to reward and inspire Flacco for the future. "It was reflective of the past, the present and what the expectation is going forward," Linta said of Flacco's contract. "I don't want him to be in a situation three or four years from now thinking, 'I'm underpaid.” "It's nice to be right," Linta said. "Everybody laughed about it when I said he's a top-five guy. When I said he should be the highest-paid player in the NFL, they thought I was a jackass. Hey, I do my job."
Linta told Jay Glazer of Fox Sports on Friday that Joe was conscious of the Ravens needs in free agency. "Joe's not that kind of guy," Linta said. "Joe absolutely wants to work with the Ravens to ensure that they're not impacted cap-wise. Joe doesn't want to see anybody get cut as a result of this deal."
Flacco, Linta and apparently the Ravens agree with each other on one comment that has been the center of attention for the last year and that is where Flacco belongs in the pecking order of NFL quarterbacks.
The date was April 3, 2012 and Flacco was giving an interview with Glenn Clark and Drew Forrester of WNST.net. He was asked if he thought he was elite or one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Flacco did not waiver in his answer, just as Eli Manning did not when Michael Kay asked him the year before.
The question, are you a top five quarterback came after Flacco’s agent, Linta, said he and his client expected to be paid like one last February when negotiations were in their infancy. Debating whether Flacco is elite has become one of the top sports talk show topics of not just the last two months but since the day, Joe spoke those words on WNST.net.
"Without a doubt. What do you expect me to say? … I assume everybody thinks they’re a top-five quarterback. I mean, I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’m top five, I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’d be very successful at my job if I didn’t feel that way. I mean, c’mon? That’s not really too tough of a question. But that doesn’t mean that things are gonna work out that way. It just means that that’s the way it is, that’s the way I feel it is, and that’s the way I feel it should be.".
USA Today’s Jarrett Bell wrote, “The "elite" tag has provided so much background noise for Flacco's journey that — with money, status and power now — he should try to trademark the word”. Even though Eli Manning also won a Super Bowl after making the same declaration two off seasons ago, the Giants QB owes Flacco a debt of gratitude for taking him off the “elite” hook after a season that saw the defending Super Bowl champions miss the playoffs.
Flacco will have no such luxury next season; the playoffs will be the least of what is expected from the league’s highest paid player——EVER.
It is hard to argue with Flacco’s production and the contract is more than reflective of his ability to win games than it is to complete passes. However, a contract of this magnitude will require Flacco to do the latter with a lot more consistency than he has during his five-year career.
Many will argue that Flacco is not on the same level, as three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady or four-time league MVP and Super Bowl XLI MVP Peyton Manning in terms of a long-term body of work. Nevertheless, at just 28, Flacco is on the right path to potentially match their exclusive company.
NUMBERS DO NOT LIE:
Since winning Super Bowl MVP, all Joe Flacco has done is appear everywhere from Disney World to David Letterman. All Joe Flacco has done the last five years is win football games. His 63-30 win-loss record ranks best in the league since he entered the league as the 18th overall selection out of Delaware in the 2008 NFL Draft. That is the most by a quarterback in his first five seasons within the Super Bowl era.
You say he is merely an average quarterback. I say he plays average at times. Yes, his 86.3 QB screams average but doesn't his win total more than offset the mediocre passer rating. Joe Flacco may have lost a game or two for his team during his five seasons but as a rule, he does not lose games for his team.
He has thrown just 56 interceptions in five seasons. His TD to INT percentage according to Pro Football Reference is 2.2 for his career. Meaning, Flacco throws an int just 2.2 percent of the time he throws at least 14 passes during a game. That is a better career average than Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and is slightly less than Tom Brady’s 2.1.
Including the playoffs, he has tossed 121 touchdowns and just 64 interceptions. The percentage evens out attempts, as Flacco averages significantly less than all three.
This season, Flacco set a single-season career high in passing yards, breaking his previous record of 3,622 from 2010. Flacco compiled 3,817 yards, 22 TDs (two more than 2011) and 10 INTs (two less than 2011) on 317-of-531 passing. He also connected on 40 completions of 25-or-more yards, setting a Ravens’ single-season record. The new leader of the Ravens also became first QB in Baltimore football history (Colts and Ravens) to throw for 3,500 yards in four-straight seasons.
Speaking of Manning, wasn't it him and not Flacco that blinked first during the double OT playoff game in January. I know the 70-yard TD play to Jacoby Jones was a miracle and the Ravens had less than a three percent chance to win at that point. However, it was Manning who finally broke and threw the interception that set up the winning field goal. It was the old master, No.18 and not No.5, that audibled to a run when a short pass would have gotten the necessary first down to ice the game for Denver.
A pass Manning likely could have completed against Ray Lewis, who failed to register a single pass defense on eight balls thrown his way during the game. Flacco still had to step up under pressure and throw the ball 60 yards in the air to Jones, while Manning never completed a pass longer than 32-yards in almost six quarters of football.
In fact, Flacco never blinked against Andrew Luck, Manning, Brady and finally the upstart sophomore signal caller, who was running the sexy new option run offense for the significantly better San Francisco 49ers—people said.
Flacco left the Mercedes Benz Superdome with a brand new shiny Corvette and Colin Kaepernick with nothing more than another great learning experience. All Joe Flacco did during the playoffs was tie another Joe by tossing 11 touchdowns without throwing an interception. Flacco tied Joe Montana’s 1989 postseason effort by throwing two at home vs. the Colts and three against the Broncos, Patriots and Niners.
Flacco tied QB Tom Brady by winning his ninth postseason game in his first five years. All but two have come away from M&T Bank Stadium. His seven road wins are the most by any quarterback on the road in the playoffs—– ever. The Ravens are also paying for Flacco’s durability and toughness. Flacco added to an already impressive consecutive games streak to start his career this season.
Entering 2012, his 73 NFL starts (including playoffs) were already the most to begin a career by a QB in NFL history. Flacco had produced 49 total wins in those contests. The totals are now 93 and 63 respectively, following a 20 game run that ended with a Super Bowl MVP award for No.5.
Yes, Joe Flacco has issues that make him look nothing more than average at best at times. His footwork has been horrible, his decision making with outside blitzers still leaves a lot to be desired and he can flat out leave you scratching your head sometimes as to what the hell he is doing.
Yes, haters I know it’s true that Flacco has never been to a Pro Bowl but ask the nine Pro Bowlers he beat this year how much that matters. In fact, Merrill Hodge, a notorious Flacco detractor said Flacco was the best signal caller in the NFL now after he beat the Niners in the SB.
How is this possible you ask? Well if he beat Luck, Manning, Brady and Kaepernick and Kaepernick beat Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers, that leaves only Joe Cool standing, who by the way, destroyed Eli Manning during a game late in the year. He also beat Tony Romo in October, who is on many lists ahead of Flacco– and while you could argue Romo beat himself in that contest, Flacco did not. That is how Flacco has got to this point, by being an elite game manager. There that sounds good doesn't it? He can win one for you before he loses one and I will take that any day.
AN INVESTMENT THAT'S ALREADY PAID FOR ITSELF:
I saw this posted over the weekend and in all honesty cannot think of a better way to end the Flacco argument. If you were an investor of NFL quarterbacks back in 2008, when he was drafted and someone said, for $120 million you are drafting a player that will help lead your team to the playoffs every single year for his first five five years of his career—and win at least one game each time, would you be intrigued to listen to to more?
This quarterback will also help your team win what many consider the toughest division in football not once but twice. For giggles, we will throw in a season in which he helps his team win every home game for the fans and in the same season sweep that tough division for the first time in franchise history. He will also lead a team that finally beats the Colts and Peyton Manning in the same playoffs and he will lead your team past Tom Brady twice in the playoffs, once for a trip to the Super Bowl. He is going to play in three AFC Championships in those five years and out play a future Hall of Famer in two of them.
Sound good so far, ready to write the check, wait—-there is yet more he will deliver.
He will lead game-winning drives against your most hated rival in their house two seasons in a row, while beating them four times in his last six games against them.
Is that enough for your investment—- still yet—there is more. He will also lead you to your best start in franchise history at 9-2 while the defense falls apart because of injuries. He will average 11 wins per season and win the Super Bowl MVP while throwing 11 TDs & 0 INTs in that playoff run while possessing the best deep ball-throwing arm in a pass happy league.
BUT—–and there is always a but isn't there, he will own a completion percentage that ranks in the lower third of the league and he will not yet have played in a Pro-Bowl. Your playoff loses are extremely painful but every team you lost to during the postseason went onto to play in the Super Bowl. Flacco has not ranked higher than 13th in Total QBR (ESPN QBR) in any of the five seasons of his NFL career. Twice, he's ranked 25th or worse. Also, you don't know exactly what will happen from year six on.
Are you writing the check? That’s what I thought.
Luckily for Baltimore football fans, the Ravens are about to do just that. And while Joe Flacco may not be worth the money, he most certainly is worthy of the deal. He's earned it. Congratulations Joe Flacco and good job Ravens front office—–as usual.