Flacco and the Price of the Tag

February 18, 2013 | Thyrl Nelson

Once the Ravens tell Joe Flacco that he’s worth $20 million to them, this year; why wouldn’t a guy who’s been so willing to recklessly gamble on himself already, a guy who hasn’t missed a snap due to injury in his football life, then settle for Drew Brees money and $40 million upfront and $60 million total over the first 3 years. Flacco could be at $85 million after those first 3-years for simply playing hardball with the Ravens and staying relatively healthy and productive for the next 2 seasons.

The career ending injury scenario is very real, but grossly overstated too. In the last 25 years of NFL football there are no good examples of a quarterback with real market value who saw that value diminished by an injury. Peyton Manning just got a Brinks truck full of money at an advanced age and coming off of 4 neck surgeries. What would really have to happen to Flacco to make his market and therefore his money simply dry up?

Before you answer, remember that in the NFL the only money that’s guaranteed is the money you already got. Signing a Drew Brees contract doesn’t alleviate that risk for Flacco; it just puts $40 million in his hand today. He already has $20 million in hand by way of the tag. By the end of next year, Flacco would be close to flush with Brees’ money courtesy of back-to-back franchise tags, and by the end of the 2014 would be $25 million up on Brees.

Whether that’s a gamble that Flacco would be comfortable taking or not, two things are certain. The first is that it would be a far less risky gamble than the one Flacco just took on himself in the 2012 season. The second is that he’ll have to sell the Ravens on his willingness to continue to gamble on himself in order to have any leverage in negotiations at all.

With $20 million in hand, $24 million more at the end of 2013, and $40 million or more in free agency at the and of 2014, Drew Brees money suddenly doesn’t sound so great. If Flacco and his agent Joe Linta can get comfortable with that kind of gamble, or at least make the Ravens believe that they are, then $40 million followed by $10 million, followed by another $10 million no longer sounds like enough. My guess…to make Flacco and Linta move off a $20 million tag number it’ll take 6-years $120 million with $55-$60 million at signing.

That’s how you play poker in the NFL.