With Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice signing a new five-year contract earlier this week, the Ravens now shift their attention to quarterback Joe Flacco with the hopes of completing a long-term deal before the start of training camp next week.
But how realistic that is remains to be seen as agent Joe Linta and Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty continue negotiations.
According to a report by former Ravens scout Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com, a source with knowledge of the situation said there’s a “75 percent chance” of completing a new contract for the fifth-year quarterback before the start of training camp next week. The 27-year-old signal-caller is entering the final year of his rookie contract signed in 2008.
However, Linta reminded everyone not to believe everything they read when he joined AM 1570 WNST on Thursday.
“That was news to me. That’s good, that’s a good number,” Linta said. “You just laugh at people who do that. I also understand the media. You guys have a job to do. You are trying to get some content. Somebody says something to him that says they are making progress and he deduces 75 percent. He picked a number out, it’s fine. It’s not a big deal. Like I said, he is just doing his job. There’s no truth to it, but he is doing his job.”
With Rice’s $40 million contract clearing $2.7 million away from the projected salary cap for 2012, general manager Ozzie Newsome now has more cap room to intensify negotiations, which wasn’t as feasible when the Ravens had less than $1 million of space prior to Monday. Flacco is scheduled to make $6.76 million in the final year of his contract.
Flacco told WNST.net earlier this offseason he would not set a firm deadline to cut off negotiations, saying he was open to continuing talks into the start of the season if talks were progressing. Finding parameters for Flacco’s value has been difficult with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees — two quarterbacks clearly in the next pay grade — being the only other signal-callers to receive lucrative deals this offseason.
“I would say that the percent importance there is zero,” said Linta when asked if the deal needed to be done by the start of camp. “If we do this deal today at lunchtime, Joe will be fine with it. If we do this deal three years from now, Joe will be fine with it. I promise you that. He just wants to play the game and win. Obviously, any human being wants to be recognized for what they are worth, but that’s secondary and that’s my job.”
The Ravens can negotiate with more leverage now in knowing the Rice contract is finished, meaning the 2013 franchise tag will be at their disposal to use on the quarterback. Had the Ravens not agreed to a long-term deal with Rice, a nightmarish scenario could have played out in which the Ravens would have been forced to choose one to franchise while the other potentially reached the free-agent waters.
As is the case with any negotiation, the lack of a firm deadline or any real urgency could slow the pace of negotiations. With the Ravens now being able to tag Flacco next offseason without any thought of Rice, both sides know the quarterback isn’t going anywhere in 2013. In order to maximize the potential value of a deal, Flacco’s best bet might be to play out the season in hopes of posting career numbers.
“They know he is the best guy they have had here ever,” Linta said. “It’s a tough, long road to do this, but it’s not an unpleasant one. What people don’t know about Joe Flacco is his drive and desire to win a Super Bowl and take this team to the next level supersedes his desire for money.”
The University of Delaware product has 13,816 passing yards and 82 touchdowns in his first four years in the league and has led the Ravens to at least one postseason victory in each of his first four seasons, something no other quarterback in NFL history has done. Flacco drew criticism earlier this offseason for stating he believed he was the best quarterback in the NFL.
“He’s one of the best,” Linta said. “I’m not going to sit here and say he is the best. When I said six months ago that he is in the top five, he is clearly in the top five. Anyone who watched film would say that. Anybody that doesn’t watch film could say, ‘Oh he’s crazy, he’s ninth statistically.’ It doesn’t matter. What matters is what does he do on the field and does he make correct [and] proper decisions.
“There are people in the media that don’t watch the film and all they have to go on are statistics. There are a lot of guys that are on television that don’t know the difference between a touchdown and goose down, yet they are analyzing Joe Flacco’s performance. You have to laugh at that but they become influential to the public, at large.”
Listen to the entire Joe Linta interview with WNST.net’s Drew Forrester HERE.