In just three days, the NFL season will reach its conclusion, as the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers battle it out in New Orleans in Super Bowl XLVII. Millions and millions of diehard NFL fans are eagerly anticipating Sunday night’s showdown, and so are the bookies, who currently favor the NFC champion 49ers to claim a record-tying sixth Super Bowl win.
But even though this season’s not quite over yet, it’s never too early to look ahead. In almost a month and a half, the NFL’s free agency period will get underway, and teams are already looking at not only which soon-to-be free agents they may pursue if/when those players hit the market, but also which of their own soon-to-be free agents they’ll be looking to hold on to.
One potential free agent who’s all but a certainty to remain with his current team is Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who’ll be looking to go into the off-season a Super Bowl champion and start next season as a Super Bowl champion with a fat new contract. According to reports, the former Delaware star and the 18th pick in the 2008 draft, is seeking a deal with an annual salary of $20 million a year.
Now, Flacco has earned a sizable upgrade from the five-year, $30 million rookie contract that paid him $6.76 million this season. That much is true. In his five seasons under center, Flacco has a 54-26 regular-season record as a starter, he’s led the Ravens to five consecutive playoff appearances, two consecutive AFC North titles, three AFC Championship game appearances, and an AFC title, and he’ll be able to tack on a Super Bowl title if the Ravens triumph on Sunday. Individually, he’s thrown for 17,633 yards, 102 touchdowns, and 56 interceptions, and he’s posted an 86.3 passer rating and a 60.5 completion percentage.
That all adds up to a nice return on the Ravens’ investment. But is it worth a likely nine-figure deal? In a word, no. He’s asking for elite money, and he’s not yet in that echelon. It could be argued that there are at least ten veteran starting quarterbacks that are above him on the ladder, and that doesn’t include quarterbacks from the last three NFL draft classes who are already established starters (Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson). Flacco’s certainly not a bad quarterback, and at 28, his best years are likely ahead of him. So, he could definitely reach the point where he’s referred to in the same vein as the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees.
But if he gets the kind of money he’s seeking, or something close to it, that’[s going to set the bar pretty high for when, say, Aaron Rodgers, gets a contract extension in the near future, or when the likes of Luck and RGIII outperform their rookie contracts, which they’ll do by a large margin if they continue at their current trajectories. As it is, it could play a role in the impending contract negotiations between Atlanta and Matt Ryan, who was the first quarterback taken in that 2008 draft. Ryan’s playoff success doesn’t match Flacco’s, but the team’s resume under him is nothing to shake a stick at, and he’s coming off of three straight highly impressive seasons statistically. So if Flacco wants $20 million a year, Ryan has a fair few reasons to ask for the same.
Speaking of statistics, it has to be mentioned that Flacco has seen a downturn in a few statistical areas over the last couple of seasons. He can point to his resume, especially if it includes a win on Sunday, and say he deserves $20 million or thereabouts a year, and he’d have a pretty convincing argument. But the Ravens can point at the downturn in his numbers as a deterrent. Also, the Ravens are built less around their QB in comparison to a few other contenders.
Ultimately, Flacco will likely have a $14.6 million franchise tag placed on him, which will ensure he’s in a Ravens uniform next season even if the two sides fail to agree a long-term deal by July, which is how long they’d have to hammer something out if the franchise tag is used. And ultimately, the Ravens will make him a well-compensated man in the future, and it could be for the amount or close the amount he‘s currently seeking. But ultimately, at this point in time, he’s not quite worth it, no matter what happens on Sunday.