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Flacco extension more about future than short-term relief

Posted on 02 March 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens were never going to “win” the contract negotiations with franchise quarterback Joe Flacco and agent Joe Linta, who held all of the leverage like they did three years ago.

Sure, senior vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty could have negotiated a structure that would have created more salary cap space for 2016 than the extra $6 million provided by Flacco’s three-year, $66.4 million extension, but the Ravens have been down that road before and didn’t want to be forced to go back to the negotiating table three years from now. Instead, they sacrificed some immediate cap relief in favor of the long-term balance that will provide the organization more flexibility when Flacco reaches the back end of his contract.

“Going forward, it’s a very flat deal, especially with the rise of the salary cap as we’ve seen over the last couple years,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “The deal is a lot flatter. And if he wins three Super Bowls in a row, then we might have to revisit this thing — I don’t know.”

Flacco’s $40 million signing bonus is an NFL record — an emphatic win for Linta and his client — but the extension includes no future option bonuses that can eventually make cap figures untenable like we witnessed with the original six-year, $120.6 million contract that included numbers of $28.55 million for 2016 and $31.15 million for 2017. His deal now runs through the 2021 season.

To be clear, the Ravens didn’t get a favor from their longtime quarterback — he is now scheduled to be paid a whopping $125 million over the next six years — but they undid some of the cap damage from the first time around. The move wasn’t about any generosity from Flacco as much as it was about cooperation.

“It’s tough to say you give up anything when you’re signing these kinds of deals,” said Flacco as he laughed when asked if he had made any sacrifices by extending. “I mean, come on, I’m sure there are a couple things I could probably pick and say, ‘Man, I wish you guys could have done this and that,’ but no. This thing happened pretty quickly, and I took a couple days to at least sleep on it, because this only happens [a few] times in a career.”

For years, the Ravens have rewarded star players with back-loaded contracts, a practice that provides short-term cap benefits before a team ultimately pays the cap price in latter years. Lucrative contracts given to the likes of Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ray Rice in recent years fell into that category, and the organization faced difficult decisions of whether to further extend aging star players with high cap figures or be forced to part ways altogether.

Flacco’s original deal was severely back-loaded as $25.85 million of the $62 million he was paid over the first three years of the deal had yet to be accounted for on the salary cap. That balance doesn’t just go away, no matter how you try to rework a contract. You can only kick the can so far down the road.

The 2008 first-round pick’s cap figures will remain north of $22 million over the duration of the contract, but the Ravens will have some flexibility over the final years. As a result, Newsome can feel more confident in constructing his roster knowing a dramatic spike in Flacco’s cap number isn’t looming.

Should the quarterback’s play diminish to the point that Baltimore is ready to move on, cutting him prior to 2020 — when he is 35 — will result in just $8 million in dead money. Parting ways before the final season of the deal would not leave any dead money, and if a 36-year-old Flacco is still playing at a high level then, the Ravens could easily rework his 2021 non-guaranteed base salary of $24.25 million into a short-term extension of another season or two with minimal cap ramifications.

For the time being, Flacco has again become the highest-paid player in the NFL, but the salary cap has also increased 26 percent since he signed the original deal in 2013. Newsome citing the money Washington and Philadelphia will pay Kirk Cousins and Sam Bradford, respectively, shows how expensive even unproven quarterbacks are becoming. The price was steep, but the Ravens can now take solace in knowing they’re off the quarterback contract carousel for the next several years.

Flacco certainly doesn’t come cheap, but the flatter structure of his deal coupled with an ever-increasing salary cap should keep the Ravens in position to be successful as long as they’re wise with other resources, something they’ve struggled to do over the last few seasons. The harshest detractors blame Flacco’s contract for the Ravens missing the playoffs twice in the last three years, but he accounted for a reasonable total of $36.15 million in cap space over those seasons.

“It’s all about winning football games,” Flacco said. “Once this thing is signed and over with, that’s all that we’re worried about. This gives us the best chance to move forward. Over the next six years, it’s a huge window to go win another Super Bowl — another two, another three, whatever it may be. At the end of the day, that’s our goal.”

And at the end of day, teams who have quarterbacks — whether they’re future Hall of Famers, elite, or merely good enough to get you over the championship hump — must do what it takes to keep them. Critics will say the Ravens overpaid for Flacco’s services again — his regular-season statistics would say they’re correct —  but you can’t value quarterbacks in a vacuum. Teams would rather have the right guy than to simply be right about how much to pay him.

Just ask the Cleveland Browns.

Flacco’s extension was more about righting the structure of the original deal and setting the Ravens up for the next six years with a quarterback who has already won a Super Bowl and plays his best football in the postseason. After spending more than a decade in Baltimore without a franchise signal-caller, Newsome isn’t about to question Flacco’s value, especially after watching the Ravens play without him this past season.

“I just spent about five days with GMs [at the scouting combine in Indianapolis] who are looking for a Joe Flacco, and they’re not sleeping at night, I can tell you,” Newsome said. “We did that, and no one can appreciate a good quarterback [like] Ozzie Newsome can after going through what we went through. I learned a lot of lessons along the way of what a good quarterback really is.”

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Flacco agrees to three-year extension through 2021

Posted on 02 March 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Knowing a $28.55 million salary cap figure for the 2016 season could cripple their offseason, the Ravens and veteran quarterback Joe Flacco have agreed to a three-year contract extension through 2021.

The deal reportedly includes $66.4 million in new money and an NFL record $40 million signing bonus. That amount coupled with the $58.6 million he was already owed over the next three seasons will give the 31-year-old a total of $125 million over the next six years.

Flacco will now carry a $22.55 million cap figure for 2016, giving the Ravens an additional $6 million with which to maneuver this offseason.

“We did not do a deal to gain cap room,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said. “We did a deal so Joe Flacco could be on this football team for the next six years. That was probably the most important thing that [we] were working toward.

“The cap will take care of itself. But, is it going to be helpful? Yes.”

The Ravens entered Wednesday projected to be less than $3 million under the salary cap without even addressing their restricted free agents and exclusive-rights players, making it clear that they needed to adjust Flacco’s cap figure after the worst season of the John Harbaugh era. They will now have more flexibility to try to re-sign offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele and make other improvements to a team that finished 5-11 in 2015.

Despite plenty of posturing from both sides about whether Flacco’s original six-year, $120.6 million contract needed to be addressed, talks began between the Ravens and agent Joe Linta at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last week. Unlike the tense negotiations after Super Bowl XLVII three years ago, discussions were more cooperative this time around as optimism grew about an extension.

“My biggest priority is winning and going out there and being the best football player I can be over the rest of my career,” Flacco said. “I want a little help, and I want to go out there and I just win another Super Bowl. I remember how good that feels, and I can think back to just how jealous I was of other guys this year and the year before that who were playing in that game.”

The Ravens paid Flacco $62 million from 2013-2015 with just $36.15 million of that counting against the cap over that time. The extension clearly helps, but that charge doesn’t just disappear as the goal all along was to try to flatten out his annual cap numbers. The days of Flacco carrying an affordable cap figure between $14 million and $15 million like he did in 2014 and 2015 are long over, however.

Flacco, who continues to rehab his surgically-repaired left knee, will be 36 when his new contract is scheduled to expire. The organization is optimistic that Flacco will be ready for the start of training camp.

“I don’t have anything to compare it to, but I feel like it’s going really well,” Flacco said. “I’m coming in here every day and doing what they tell me to do, and I think that’s really all I can do at this point. I don’t have any real outlook on what the future’s going to bring, but I know that I’m attacking it 100 percent every day and doing the best I can.”

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NFL combine figures to jump-start Flacco contract talks

Posted on 22 February 2016 by Luke Jones

The start of the new league year is quickly approaching and the Ravens have yet to adjust Joe Flacco’s $28.55 million salary cap figure for the 2016 season.

That process figures to heat up this week at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis where team officials and player agents discuss plenty of business ahead of the official start of free agency on March 9. Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, expects to meet with the Ravens this weekend, according to Pro Football Talk.

To this point, both sides have played poker, with Linta saying he wasn’t aware that negotiations were necessary and general manager Ozzie Newsome discussing the possibility of putting together the roster without adjusting his franchise quarterback’s cap number. However, Flacco himself has acknowledged it being unrealistic to play under such a prohibitive figure for 2016 with the Ravens coming off a 5-11 campaign and needing to make improvements to both sides of the ball.

In truth, it was acknowledged at the time it was signed in 2013 that the six-year, $120.6 million contract would need to be revisited after three seasons.

How easily a deal comes together remains to be seen as Flacco and Linta hold all negotiating leverage and the Ravens can’t force them to make any changes to the current deal. Baltimore clearly wouldn’t want to cut its quarterback, whose release would bring just $2.7 million in cap savings and $25.85 million in dead money anyway.

A simple restructuring that involves converting Flacco’s most of $18 million base salary for 2016 into a bonus would only provide cap relief for this season and would increase his scheduled cap figures for 2017 and 2018 that already stand at $31.15 million and $24.75 million, respectively. That means a contract extension is in order, and Linta is unlikely to welcome one in which Flacco is playing for peanuts — relatively speaking, of course — in his mid-30s.

Of course, Newsome and the Ravens can appeal to Flacco by reminding him that it will be difficult to put together a championship-caliber roster if he isn’t willing to be reasonable. The days of the 2008 first-round pick playing at a cap figure below $15 million — like he did in each of the last three seasons — are over, but the goal of leveling out his cap numbers closer to the $20.1 million average annual value of the original contract would appear to be a realistic goal.

It won’t be easy as just $36.15 million of the $62 million paid to Flacco over the first three years of the deal have been accounted for on the salary cap. That difference still needs to hit the cap while the Ravens continue to pay Flacco an annual salary and whatever bonuses an extension could bring.

Envisioning what kind of offseason the Ravens can have is very difficult until they address the Super Bowl XLVII MVP’s contract.

Deadlines typically spur movement, and the clock is ticking for Baltimore to get its salary cap in order.

Business is about to pick up in Indianapolis with the start of free agency just over two weeks away.


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Flacco not thinking about contract during rehab process

Posted on 04 January 2016 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — It will be anything but a normal offseason for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco as he prepares for his ninth season in Baltimore.

Currently rehabbing his surgically-repaired left knee, Flacco knows his contract will be a hot topic for discussion as he enters the fourth season of a six-year, $120.6 million agreement signed just a few weeks after winning Super Bowl XLVII. General manager Ozzie Newsome and Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, negotiated the deal in the winter of 2013 with the understanding that it would be revisited after he earned a total of $62 million over the first three years.

“I haven’t thought about it too much,” Flacco said. “I know that it’s obviously out there, and it’s probably going to be somewhat of an issue. I guess I haven’t thought about it too much, haven’t talked to anybody about it. I do know that it’s sitting there.”

Flacco is set to carry a $28.55 million salary cap figure for the 2016 season, which is close to the total cap space he accounted for in 2014 ($14.8 million) and 2015 ($14.55 million) combined. With the Ravens trying to address a plethora of needs in the aftermath of their first losing season since 2007, restructuring the deal to level off his future cap figures is a must.

A renegotiation won’t solve all of the Ravens’ cap woes as the realistic scenario is adjusting his cap numbers closer to the $20.1 million average annual value of the original deal. With Flacco scheduled to make base salaries of $18 million in 2016, $20.6 million in 2017, and $20 million in 2018 — his cap figures are $31.15 million in 2017 and $24.75 million in 2018 — the Ravens will likely attempt to turn a large portion of those scheduled salaries into a bonus while tacking on two or three additional years and more money to the contract.

But Flacco says he will leave the details up to the Ravens and Linta with a realistic deadline of early March to get something worked out before the new league years begins and teams must be under the cap.

“The first few years of my deal, the cap number wasn’t very big, so you don’t really have any other way around it [but] to have a monster one at the end of it,” Flacco said. “You know it’s coming unless the salary cap makes some kind of enormous jump, but it’s really kind of out of my control. It’s just an issue that these guys are used to dealing with day in and day out.”

Head coach John Harbaugh has said that Flacco is expected to be 100 percent for the start of training camp in late July, but he hasn’t been given any definitive timetable as he continues to rehab on a daily basis. Flacco tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee in the closing moments of Baltimore’s Nov. 22 win over St. Louis.

Turning 31 later this month, Flacco had not missed a game in his career before missing the final six weeks of a 5-11 season.

“By August, I’ll be like eight months out of surgery,” Flacco said. “I don’t know what the timeline is on these things, but I’m in there doing the work. I’m expecting I’ll be ready to go. I really have no idea though.”

Monroe not dwelling on future

Many have speculated about the future of Eugene Monroe, but the left tackle isn’t focusing on whether he’ll be back for the third season of a five-year, $37.5 million contract that included $17.5 million guaranteed.

“That’s not something I’m concerned with at all,” said Monroe, who has started just 17 of the Ravens’ last 34 games counting the postseason. “I’m focused on getting healthy and getting back to ball.”

After missing action due to knee surgery and an ankle injury in 2014, Monroe missed three games with a concussion at the beginning of the season and six more contests with a shoulder injury that eventually required season-ending surgery last month. Starting left guard Kelechi Osemele moved to left tackle for the final four games of the season, and many believe he played well enough for the Ravens to consider re-signing him to play the position permanently and releasing Monroe.

A 2009 first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Monroe had missed just four games in his first five NFL seasons and is scheduled to make $6.5 million in base salary and carry an $8.7 million cap figure next year.

“Frustration isn’t going to do me any good,” Monroe said. “No one likes to be hurt and not on the field, but it is what it is, and I’ve had some things happen that just were unfortunate. But I’ll make sure I continue to work my ass off and continue to get better.”

Ravens sign seven players

With the 2015 regular season over, the Ravens signed seven players to reserve-future contracts, which will allow them to be with the organization during the offseason and to compete for roster spots during training camp and the preseason.

The list includes linebacker Brennen Beyer, guard Leon Brown, defensive end Nordly Capi, offensive tackle Blaine Clausell, wide receiver Chuck Jacobs, safety Nick Perry, and tight end Harold Spears, who all spent time on the Baltimore practice squad this season.

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Flacco’s younger brother reportedly declares for NFL Draft

Posted on 08 January 2014 by WNST Staff

Former Orioles farmhand and New Haven tight end Mike Flacco will apparently attempt to join his older brother in the NFL.

Per multiple reports, the 26-year-old has declared early for the NFL draft after completing his sophomore season of Division II college football. He hadn’t played football since high school and was named a third-team Division II All-American after catching 30 passes for 591 yards and nine touchdowns.

A 31st-round selection by the Orioles in 2009, Flacco retired from professional baseball last year and enrolled at New Haven to play college football. He will be represented by agent Joe Linta, who aided Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in signing a six-year, $120.6 million contract last winter.

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NFL = Numbers Frequently Lie

Posted on 04 March 2013 by 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”.

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Timing everything as Flacco becomes highest-paid player in NFL history

Posted on 01 March 2013 by Luke Jones

It was the perfect storm of circumstances for Joe Flacco to become the highest-paid player in NFL history, regardless of whether you think the Ravens quarterback is truly deserving of the title.

Believing Flacco isn’t the best quarterback in the league is more than fair, but it didn’t hold any weight at the negotiating table this time around as general manager Ozzie Newsome, owner Steve Bisciotti, and the entire organization were just fitted for their championship rings a few weeks ago. His play over the final four games of the season pushed him into the top tier of quarterbacks and that’s all that’s needed to fetch the richest contract in league history when it’s your turn in line.

That will become evident in the near future when Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers receives his payday that will likely eclipse the Baltimore quarterback’s deal.

Yes, Flacco bet on himself last summer by turning down the Ravens’ best offer — rumored to be a contract in the $16 million-per-year range — and proved everyone wrong by completing arguably the greatest postseason performance in NFL history. With Flacco leading his team to victory in Super Bowl XLVII, arguments over whether he was elite or where he ultimately ranked in the hierarchy of NFL quarterbacks became irrelevant.

The sight of Flacco raising the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl MVP in New Orleans was all that was needed to predict what will become official on Monday when he signs a six-year, $120.6 million. Timing is everything when it comes to contract negotiations, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of a professional athlete seizing the opportunity.

Flacco, his agent Joe Linta, and the Ravens all knew there was no other outcome after the 28-year-old was at his best on the biggest stage possible.

Even if they paid more than they would have liked in a perfect world, the Ravens knew there was no way they could let their franchise quarterback go after he did exactly what they asked of him by throwing 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in four postseason games, topping two of the greatest quarterbacks in league history along the way. Their salary-cap restrictions prohibited them from trying to play hardball as the use of the pricy franchise tag would have meant virtually no chance for the Ravens to make any other moves of significant note this offseason, in terms of re-signing their other unrestricted free agents or pursuing other talent on the open market.

The choice was simple: sign their franchise quarterback to a long-term deal now — even if it meant overpaying in some critics’ minds — or lose a number of other players and risk alienating Flacco and his representation further by using the franchise tag. And even though there was no tangible fear of losing their quarterback, the Ravens’ memory of lackluster play from the likes of Kyle Boller, Anthony Wright, Chris Redman, and virtually every other quarterback in town prior to 2008 was enough to provide a final nudge if necessary.

It wasn’t a choice at all, really, and that’s why critics arguing that Flacco’s new-found fortune is too much are wasting their breath. Negotiations don’t take place in a vacuum as Flacco’s side had all the leverage in the world. Taking a stand is a lot easier when you’re standing on the sideline, and Newsome and the Ravens had no such luxury.

The year-by-year breakdown of the deal has yet to be revealed, but the Ravens are likely to receive some relief for 2013 in comparison to the cap figure Flacco would have carried if slapped with the franchise tag. As any team paying a top quarterback will tell you, the Ravens hope the league’s new television deal will inflate the salary cap substantially starting in 2015 to ease the pain of what will be some gigantic cap numbers over the next few years.

But none of that talk can dampen the satisfaction of knowing the Ravens have their man locked up for the next six years.

The pressure will now be on Flacco to live up to the terms of his record-breaking deal. Observers will expect more performances like he showed in the postseason instead of the modest 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions he threw during the regular season.

The cost of business clearly went up in terms of the quarterback’s compensation, so the expectations will justifiably rise as well.

And that’s a compliment to Flacco as he enters the prime of his career with a full offseason to work with offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, whose December promotion paid dividends for the Baltimore offense. Higher expectations will be there because Flacco showed he was fully capable of playing at that elite level against the best competition the NFL had to offer.

Flacco reached the pinnacle for the first time in his career last month and now he will be asked to do it again every year — even if we know that’s not really possible.

It may sound too harsh, but there are 120 million reasons why that’s a reasonable demand.

And knowing the Ravens quarterback, that’s perfectly fine with him.


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Flacco, Ravens agree to terms on record-setting contract

Posted on 01 March 2013 by Luke Jones

After reaching the pinnacle of his career in being named Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLVII, quarterback Joe Flacco will now break the bank with a long-term contract with the Ravens making him the highest-paid player in NFL history.

As first reported by FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer, the sides have reached an agreement in principle on a long-term deal that will officially be completed on Monday, the last day the Ravens would have been able to designate Flacco with the franchise tag. The quarterback will sign a six-year deal worth $120.6 million, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The record-setting deal comes after Flacco held more negotiating leverage over the Ravens than any star player in recent memory.

The news of the long-term agreement will alleviate salary cap concerns for the Ravens as a deal is expected to create a more manageable 2013 cap figure for the franchise quarterback than either the exclusive or non-exclusive franchise tag numbers for this season.

Flacco’s agent Joe Linta and Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty entered contract negotiations in Indianapolis last week for the first time since talks broke down last August with the sides unable to come to an agreement. Talks were described as cordial, but a contract wasn’t considered imminent until the news broke Friday evening. Linta said Friday the Ravens agreed to all their terms, but they will look over the deal before Flacco signs it on Monday.

Though it doesn’t qualify as an official statement, the Ravens’ Twitter account announced that general manager Ozzie Newsome has confirmed that the parameters of the contract are in place with some details and language that will need to be finalized.

After passing on the Ravens’ best offer last summer, Flacco went on to throw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in one of the greatest postseason performances in NFL history to lead the Ravens to their second world championship on Feb. 3. The fifth-year quarterback cemented his place as one of the league’s top signal-callers with the remarkable four-game run against Indianapolis, Denver, New England, and San Francisco.

Playing in his first Super Bowl, Flacco went 22-for-33 for 287 yards and three touchdowns in the 34-31 victory over the 49ers. The 28-year-old threw for 22 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and 3,817 yards in the regular season.

Several teammates used Twitter to offer their congratulations on Friday evening as the Ravens now know their franchise quarterback will remain in Baltimore for years to come.

“Dinner and a few nights on Joe Flacco when we get back,” wrote Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, who added that the new contract was “well deserved.”

In his five-year career, the 2008 first-round pick has passed for 17,633 yards, 102 touchdowns, and 56 interceptions for a career passer rating of 86.3.

The Ravens are expected to turn their attention immediately toward their other unrestricted free agents and the rest of the offseason as securing the quarterback long-term was their paramount objective before anything else. General manager Ozzie Newsome now has the opportunity to use the franchise tag on another player, but the executive said at last month’s end-of-year press conference that the organization would not tag anyone else should they reach a new contract with Flacco.

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Clock ticking, exclusive tag price falling (a little) for Flacco and Ravens

Posted on 28 February 2013 by Luke Jones

As the clock ticks for the Ravens to strike a long-term agreement with quarterback Joe Flacco ahead of Monday’s deadline to use the franchise tag, there have been no indications that the sides have engaged in contract talks since the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Flacco’s agent Joe Linta and Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty entered contract discussions last weekend for the first time since last August, but there was no report of a deal being imminent. Of course, this doesn’t mean that progress hasn’t been made and it’s not surprising the sides are without an agreement as the March 4 deadline for designating a player with the franchise tag is now only days away.

Deadlines provide a greater sense of urgency to get deals done as we’ve seen in recent years when long-term agreements were struck with running back Ray Rice, linebacker Terrell Suggs, and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata with only hours — or even minutes — to spare in each case.

Linta has stood firm in his quest to make Flacco the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL and league insiders such as ESPN’s Adam Schefter have said a potential deal will exceed New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ five-year, $100 million contract that included $60 million guaranteed over the first three years of the deal. As has been said countless times since Super Bowl XLVII, you’d be hard-pressed to find a recent example of a player having this much leverage over a team strapped for salary-cap room and knowing they will need to fork over big bucks to a quarterback who just completed one of the greatest postseason performances in league history.

The question isn’t whether Flacco really deserves to make more than any other quarterback in football but rather do you want to keep him in Baltimore for the long haul.

The Ravens did receive some good news this week in terms of the exclusive franchise tag with New England quarterback Tom Brady and Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger reworking their current deals to lower their cap figures for the 2013 season. While neither is expected to impact the long-term negotiations between Flacco and the Ravens, the lower cap numbers for both Brady and Roethlisberger have taken them out of the league’s top 5 quarterback cap listings, which are averaged to determine the tender amount for the exclusive franchise tag.

As a result, the exclusive tag has been lowered from just under $20.5 million to a reported $19.13 million, making the use of the pricier option that takes Flacco off the free-agent market completely a bit more appealing. The non-exclusive tag is expected to cost $14.6 million for a quarterback, but it would allow another team to sign Flacco to an offer sheet and potentially surrender two first-round picks to the Ravens if they were unable to match the deal.

The lower number might do more to entice the Ravens to use the exclusive tag, but it requires an extra $4.5 million of cap room that the team already doesn’t have. In deciding between using the non-exclusive tag and the exclusive one, it could be the difference between keeping wide receiver Anquan Boldin and needing to make the painful decision to release him to clear an additional $6 million in cap space. The exclusive number also creates a natural springboard for Linta to use for negotiating by reminding the Ravens they already view Flacco as a $19.13 million-per-year player at worst in using the exclusive tag.

However, the cheaper non-exclusive tag would also result in sleepless nights for general manager Ozzie Newsome over the thought — as highly unlikely as it might be — of a team with a dramatic cap surplus like the Cleveland Browns swooping in and signing Flacco to a front-loaded offer sheet with an absurd cap number for 2013 that would either prohibit the Ravens from matching or force them to cut even more players to match the offer.

Regardless of where you fall on the decision of which tag the Ravens should use — and opinions are split around the league — it’s apparent how urgent this situation is for the Ravens as they’ve engaged in virtually no discussion with other free agents because they don’t have a clear picture of what their salary-cap picture will be at this point. Baltimore has been in contact with the agent for inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe — considered the second-biggest priority among their unrestricted free agents — but even keeping him would be extremely difficult if Flacco is to carry either tag number.

Ellerbe, left tackle Bryant McKinnie, safety Ed Reed, and any other free agent — with the team or not — remain little more than an afterthought at this point in time.

We’ll begin to receive more clarity by 4 p.m. on Monday, the last day teams may designate a player with the franchise tag, but it won’t mean negotiations will automatically break off should the Ravens announce they are tagging their quarterback. The significant time for the Ravens and Flacco to have a long-term contract in place by falls on March 12 at 4 p.m. for the start of the new league year — and the opening of free agency — when teams must be in compliance with the salary cap.

But in those final days leading up to the start of free agency, the ax could fall on a few of Flacco’s teammates as the Ravens wouldn’t be able to assume a long-term deal will happen in time to quell their cap concerns.

The clock is ticking as the Ravens and Flacco approach the first tangible deadline of the offseason and their negotiations.

As I wrote right after the Super Bowl, the real question is when — not as much if or how — the deal gets done.

And the Ravens are in a holding pattern with the rest of their offseason until it does.


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Business about to pick up as Ravens brass travels to NFL scouting combine

Posted on 20 February 2013 by Luke Jones

After only a couple weeks to set offseason priorities and plans following their win in Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens realize business is about to pick up as the shapers of the organization travel to Indianapolis for the NFL’s scouting combine.

Most teams will be focused primarily on scouting the incoming rookie class ahead of April’s draft and holding informal discussions — don’t dare call these talks tampering, however — with the agents of soon-to-be free agents, but the Ravens hold the clearest and most important task of any team in Indianapolis. General manager Ozzie Newsome and vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty are set to meet with quarterback Joe Flacco’s agent for their first contract negotiations since last August. Joe Linta has expressed a desire for his client to become the highest-paid quarterback in the league and is reportedly seeking upwards of $20 million per season.

As unlikely as it is that the sides come to an agreement on a long-term contract this weekend in Indianapolis, it will be important to see progress made from the point where talks broke down prior to last season. The first real deadline on which to be focused is March 4, the last day the Ravens are allowed to place the franchise tag on Flacco for the 2013 season. Should the Ravens be forced to use the $14.6 non-exclusive tag or the exclusive one estimated to cost $20 million or more for a one-year tender, they will be faced with making a number of roster cuts to be in compliance with the salary cap by the start of the new league year on March 12.

While Flacco’s side is likely willing to be creative in structuring a deal to quell cap concerns for the 2013 season, Linta made it clear a couple weeks ago that it’s not his client’s obligation to take a hometown discount to bail the Ravens out of trouble.

“There are a lot of teams in the same boat; the Ravens aren’t the only ones with cap problems,” Linta said on AM 1570 WNST.net earlier this month. “Whether it’s Joe or any of the other free agents who are upcoming, they have to figure out how to do it. Every time you’re a cap manager like Ozzie and Pat are, you have to come up with a puzzle that works for you.”

As Moriarty’s focus will largely be on making substantial strides in order to lock up the Super Bowl MVP for the long haul, the rest of the organization will be consumed with 40-yard dash times, bench-press reps, medical exams, and interviews with countless draft prospects. And considering their tenuous cap position and how it will hinder their ability to be overly active in free agency, the Ravens will depend on April’s draft as much as ever to replenish the voids left by departing members of their Super Bowl championship team.

Te’o talk

No draft prospect will be under more scrutiny in the coming days than Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, who claimed to be the victim of an online hoax that’s drawn an overwhelming amount of attention for the better part of a month. He will be peppered with questions about the story of his nonexistent girlfriend and must test well to put himself back in position to be a top-15 pick.

It’s no secret that the Ravens will be looking at the inside linebacker position due to the retirement of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, the uncertain status of free-agent linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, and the health of Jameel McClain after he suffered a spinal cord contusion in December. Te’o has been deemed a logical fit by many draft analysts who have linked him to the Ravens at the 32nd overall pick in mock drafts. It is believed that the Ravens are impressed with the 255-pound linebacker’s ability despite his poor showing in the BCS national championship game against Alabama last month.

As is the case with any player dealing with off-field issues, it’s critical for teams to draw a definitive assessment of his ability on the field before even contemplating taking the time and resources to investigate whether they can tolerate the baggage that will accompany Te’o. His is an unprecedented case as issues of trust and whether the young linebacker will be resilient enough to deal with the intense scrutiny in the months and years to come must be strongly considered.

If the Ravens are convinced the Heisman Trophy runner-up is fast enough to go sideline to sideline — his 40 time will be a major point of interest for teams — and strong enough to take on offensive linemen in the NFL, they will do their homework on his character to determine whether he’s a realistic option at the No. 32 spot. If not, they will turn to other prospects at the position.

Another inside linebacker dealing with off-field baggage is Georgia’s Alec Ogletree, who was arrested earlier this month for DUI. Ogletree excelled at a number of positions for the Bulldogs and is considered exceptional in pass coverage, but his off-field issues — he was also suspended four games last season for failing a drug test during spring practice — may send him down the draft board, making him a possibility at the end of the first round. The questions associated with Te’o and Ogletree may benefit the Ravens, who would have figured to have no chance for either player under regular circumstances.

Other inside linebacker prospects that could be options in the first few rounds include LSU’s Kevin Minter, Oregon’s Kiko Alonso, and Alabama’s Nico Johnson, who will not participate at the combine after undergoing sports hernia surgery following the Senior Bowl.

Addressing the blind side


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