NFL combine figures to jump-start Flacco contract talks

February 22, 2016 | 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.