Joe Flacco promised that his shiny, six-year deal was about much more than becoming the highest paid player in the NFL. In an interview with ESPN, Flacco said, “it wasn’t necessarily about the money. It was, at that point, about earning that respect and feeling like I was respected around here. The fact that they have made me that definitely makes me feel good about how I played and how they feel about me.”
Flacco has certainly proven himself on the field: he is the first starting QB in NFL history to make the playoffs every one of his first five years. His nine playoff wins over that period match only Tom Brady’s playoff performance in his first five years. As the Super Bowl approached, Flacco still had his fair share of doubters. He quickly shut them up, earning Super Bowl MVP honors after his 287-yard, three-touchdown performance to cap off a historic run in the playoffs in which he threw 11 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Flacco’s laid-back demeanor led many to believe he wouldn’t and maybe that he even couldn’t find his way to a big-time contract. Flacco made evident that he knew his worth after he rejected a deal last season that would have earned him $15 million a year. He simply told the media of his refusal to sign, “I think I’m worth more.”
The deal came just in time in the eyes of the Ravens: by signing on Monday, Baltimore avoided having to slap their franchise tag on Flacco to keep him out of the free agent pool. Further, the franchise tag would have reduced the amount of cap room from $123.9 million to $109 million. While Flacco will take up a large chunk of that cap anyways, there’s no stress and the largest chunk of the Ravens offseason puzzle is completed.
Flacco’s MVP quality postseason put him in a position of immense leverage in his negotiations with the Ravens: there’s absolutely no better time to talk about a new contract than to be 28 years old with five years of playoff experience, a Super Bowl victory and a Super Bowl MVP under your belt.
The extravagant deal has interesting repercussions not only for Flacco (his deal, if all holds up, will exceed the historic $20 million/year contract Drew Brees signed shortly after his Super Bowl win), but also for quarterbacks around the game, in college and in the NFL.
Flacco’s signing gives Aaron Rogers a target to shoot for. Matt Ryan and Tony Romo are also looking for new deals not too far down the road, and neither of them has the stats, the playoff experience or the Super Bowl victories to warrant a deal like Flacco’s. Rodgers, however, can match all Flacco’s stats and add an MVP to boot. Flacco’s new contract gives Rodgers a place to shoot for after the expiration of his contract in 2014.
Further, Flacco provides inspiration for every quarterback in the collegiate system. Flacco came from the Division 1-AA Delaware Hens, by no means a powerhouse in the college game. And yet, here he is, five years later with a Super Bowl ring, and the highest paid player in the National Football League. Sometimes underdogs do prevail.
Flacco’s deal has implications for star rookies in the face of the latest collective bargaining agreement’s clause for rookie agreements. The rookie wage scale in the CBA mandates four-year contracts for every rookie with an option to extend into the fifth year, and also caps the maximum amount of money that can be spent on rookies over the course of their initial four-year contract.
The cap is minimal compared to the amount of money rookies made before the CBA’s new clause (see Sam Bradford) and thus has interesting consequences for stunning rookies like Cam Newton, whose stats (especially if you take into account his rushing statistics) are comparable with a QB like Flacco. While Newton cannot escape his contract for another two years at least, when he does, he and other rookies of comparable skill will certainly be demanding more money than they would have in a pre-Flacco deal.
Finally, I would like to draw upon a comparison I made between Joe Flacco and Eli Manning, citing their similar playoff success in my prediction for Flacco in the Super Bowl. Since the writing of that article, Flacco has made the comparison almost chilling.
Against criticisms of their softness and their lack of postseason experience, in their debut Super Bowls, Manning threw for 255 and two touchdowns, and Flacco threw for 287 and three touchdowns. This was good enough to earn the both of them Super Bowl MVPs. Through their early careers, each was backed with one of the strongest defenses in the NFL. Subsequently, both the quarterbacks were called “the future” of their organizations, and became the highest-paid players in the NFL. Manning went on to win another championship four years later: will Flacco do the same?
It’s easy to speculate after the fact as I’ve been doing in my comparison between Flacco and Manning, but the similarities are striking. I have no crystal ball; I cannot predict the future. But if Manning’s success in the league has exposed anything, it’s that there’s room for guys like Flacco to thrive. Flacco’s new contract was the first step in securing another title for Baltimore. Just give it four years or so.