NFL = Numbers Frequently Lie

March 04, 2013 | Thyrl Nelson

The NFL loves to lie to you.


They do it because they can. They do it to overshadow their inherent greed. And mostly, they do it because you continue to eat it up.

Joe Flacco is set to finalize a 6-year, $120.6 million contract with the Ravens this week, and we’re all still awaiting the details. There are however, a couple of details that we ought to know better than to accept at this point. The first is that the deal won’t be for 6-years, nor $120.6 million. Another is that when the “details” are announced the number that they throw out as “guaranteed” will be anything but guaranteed.


The NFL is a greedy league; there’s no way around that. They’re the same league that flaunted their $9+ billion revenue pie in our faces one year while negotiating their labor agreement and then locked out their referees over a tiny fraction of that money as they tried to break the officials union the next year.


In comparison to the NBA or Major League Baseball, there is no comparison. As the NFL reigns supreme in popularity and profitability they pay their players far less than their contemporaries and then fail to “guarantee” anything beyond a signing bonus. The league that chews up and spits out its talent quicker than any other is also shameless in its willingness to do so while sharing as little of the owner’s wealth as possible.


Shameless however is probably the wrong word. There has to be some shame involved, which is why they insist on lying to you, the consumer. Once a deal is agreed to, once the terms have been finalized between teams and players on contracts, the league that works so hard at spending so little, rushes to press to lie to you about how much money they’ve “committed” and what portion of that they’ve “guaranteed”.


And judging from the reaction to Joe Flacco’s contract, they do it because they can. The media has jumped all over the big numbers and the moniker of “highest paid”, the critics have weighed in on how the terms are sure to sink the Ravens yet no one has any idea how much money Joe will actually get…or when.


The Ravens did it to Cary Williams last year. They offered Williams a 3-year deal worth $15 million, and when he turned the offer down that information and those numbers mysteriously found their way to the press. To us, that sounds like $5 million per year, but we’ll never really know if it’s true. In NFL terms it could have been (and likely was) something more like $2 million in the first year, $3 million in the second, and $10 million in the third and final year of the deal, with a substantial likelihood that the contract would be terminated or renegotiated before that third year ever kicked in.


What we do know, or have heard, about Flacco’s deal is that he’ll have a lower cap number in 2013 than he did in 2012. That however hasn’t stopped folks from judging the contract through the prism of highest paid. It won’t stop the Ravens from selling it as such either as they celebrate their financial “commitment” to the QB who delivered a Super Bowl to Baltimore. And it surely won’t stop Flacco’s agent Joe Linta from using the words “most lucrative deal in NFL history” when trying to attract new clients. All of this despite the fact that we should all know much better by now.


We also know the Ravens choices were limited. They could have paid Flacco $20+ million under the exclusive franchise tag and seen every bit of that money reflected in their 2013 cap. They could have paid him $14 million in a non-exclusive franchise tag and allowed another team to negotiate the biggest and most important contract in franchise history on their behalf. Or, they could have let the first franchise QB in team history simply walk, to the highest bidder, with a couple of undetermined draft picks as compensation and prepared themselves to begin the process of grooming a QB all over again.


The Ravens made the best of a bad situation (or as bad a situation as you can have immediately after winning a Super Bowl), and for now at least they still appear poised to win.


The two sides will likely be back at the table in 2-years or so to move the money around and make the “greedy QB” look like the “Benevolent Bank of Flacco” as he helps the team remain cap solvent while piling money on top of his money. And now the team can sit back and relax as others react to the market that they created. Flacco, we know, will only be the “highest paid” player until the next guy comes up for negotiations. That’s now the Packers and Cowboys and Falcons and 49ers problem to deal with. Maybe that’s why fans have reacted so boisterously to a deal that has no bearing on their own teams, and in their words “will likely sink the Ravens”.