Joe Flacco strolled into the cramped media room at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills looking like he had just signed a scorecard after a round of 18 holes, not the richest contract in league history.
In the moment, he forgot to thank his agent, who was standing at his side, for negotiating his six-year extension and thank the Ravens for agreeing to give him $120.6 million. In between the several quality jokes he cracked, Flacco quipped that this was never about the money.
It seemed like he meant it. But money equals respect in the NFL, so in a way, it was always about the money.
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“That's not a priority of mine, to be the highest-paid guy,” Flacco said during a Monday news conference. “The priority of mine was to get that respect that I feel now from this organization.”
Flacco turned down a lesser but still lucrative offer last offseason because “I thought I was worth more.” He gambled on himself by playing out the final year of his rookie contract instead of cashing the signing bonus the Ravens dangled in front of him. And while it was a turbulent regular season for a 28-year-old quarterback who has yet to play in a Pro Bowl, Flacco hit on a blackjack by leading the Ravens to their second Super Bowl title last month.
During an incredible postseason run in which Flacco threw 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions, Flacco silenced his critics and won over many of his doubters. After he was named the Super Bowl MVP for stacking clutch performance upon clutch performance, suddenly he was the next Eli Manning, an awkward winner who morphs from Steve Urkel to Stefan when the games mattered. Flacco was no longer a national punch line.
The contract he signed with the Ravens, who walked a hard line in contract talks the past couple of years because that is what you have to do in these kinds of negotiations, was more validation that Flacco has become an elite quarterback.
Flacco acknowledged that someone else will probably become the NFL’s highest-paid player a couple of months from now. But the fact that the Ravens, who spent 12 years searching for him, felt they absolutely needed to keep him around with that caliber of a contract might have meant just as much as the money itself.
Sure, all that cold, hard cash means a lot to the Jersey boy with a wife, a young son and another baby on board. Flacco promised he wouldn’t do anything crazy with the money. “I’m just going to look at it and be able to smile a little bit,” Flacco said. And he seemed pretty pleased with himself knowing that he would not have to film any more commercials or endorse any more products again unless he really wanted to do so. “So if people are going to get me off my couch… It already takes a lot,” Flacco said, grinning.
Good for Flacco. He and his family should be set for life, and he has earned every dollar. And perhaps just as important to him, the Ravens have provided him with 120.6 million signs of respect.
“It means a lot,” Flacco said before leaving the facility to drive back home -- maybe in a Brinks truck -- so he could celebrate the deal over dinner with some close confidants. “It was never necessarily about the money and all that, but it was definitely about earning that respect and feeling like I was respected around here. The fact that we got it done and they have made me that definitely makes me feel good about how I played and how they feel about me.”