Real question is when — not how — Ravens, Flacco strike long-term deal

February 11, 2013 | Luke Jones

So, which tag will the Ravens use should it come to that point on March 4?

“I can’t monitor or I don’t know what 31 other teams are doing, so we have to prepare ourselves for it,” Newsome said. “We also know what the exclusive tag does. It puts him out where it basically takes him off the market. Those are some of the things we will talk about. I have a very good owner who understands the business. He understands the importance of certain positions, so I am optimistic. Which tag will we use? We don’t know, but we will be prepared for either scenario.”

Several have reported that quarterback-starved teams with plenty of cap room — Cleveland and Jacksonville, just to name a couple — were already willing to explore a potential contract for Flacco, knowing the price of two first-round picks under the non-exclusive tag, before the postseason even began. If true, you can only imagine how that position has been strengthened in watching him play over the final month of the season.

Should the Ravens take the risk of only using the non-exclusive tag on their star quarterback, Linta will be prepared to listen to inquiries about his client’s services. Any potential deal would have to come with a lucrative 2013 cap number to make it virtually impossible for the Ravens to match it. However, a lukewarm crop of quarterbacks in April’s draft does make it a more realistic possibility for a franchise desperate to make a splash.

“Based on who’s coming out of college this year, do you think Joe’s one of the better quarterbacks?” Linta said. “Do I think there are a couple teams in the league that want the Super Bowl MVP? It’d be a joke if I said no. My job is — if they do that — to act accordingly if anybody makes any types of phone calls. We’ll certainly take them. I don’t think we’re going to be calling every [one of the] 31 teams begging for an opportunity. Joe wants to stay in Baltimore.”

That last statement from Linta could be the Ravens’ saving grace in what otherwise appears to be as lopsided of a negotiation as you’ll find in recent years. Flacco wants to remain with the Ravens and loves the community. The most viable teams in line to potentially pursue the quarterback aren’t exactly the hottest landing points for free agents.

And I remain skeptical whether teams would really allocate the time and resources to negotiate with Flacco while knowing they must also construct a deal to work against the Ravens’ salary cap. Those teams might also view themselves as little more than leverage while Linta continues to try to work out something with Baltimore. According to Joel Corry of National Football Post, a franchise player hasn’t changed teams in exchange for two first-round picks since defensive tackle Sean Gilbert signed with the Carolina Panthers in 1998.

It just doesn’t happen very often, but franchise quarterbacks aren’t often in this position, either.

The chance of losing him is extremely remote, but it’s just enough to take the $14.6 million non-exclusive cap number and transform it to roughly $20 million to be on the safe side and eliminate any possibility of another team stealing him away. The Ravens simply cannot take any risk in handling their franchise quarterback.

The Ravens have until March 4 to strike a deal, and Newsome and Moriarty must view that as their only option for the next three weeks. If it takes a few extra dollars that might turn into a bit of a headache down the road, it will be well worth it to avoid gutting the team now or — even worse — potentially losing Flacco in an extremely-unlikely scenario in which they mess around with the non-exclusive tag.

In reality, neither tag is a good option for the Ravens as they need a resolution quickly.

The time is now to strike a deal, even if that means Flacco becomes the highest-paid quarterback in the game.

Take a deep breath and remember the shine of that Lombardi Trophy and who put the team on his back to win it.