The Ravens may soon have to make a critical decision regarding their franchise quarterback, Joe Flacco.
If they don’t sign the Super Bowl MVP to a contract extension before the March 4 deadline to place the franchise tag on a player, the Ravens must decide if they want to employ the more expensive exclusive tag.
If the Ravens use the exclusive tag, Flacco would be in line to make $20.46 million, the average of the top five salary-cap figures for NFL quarterbacks, during the 2013 season. If they used the non-exclusive tender, which carries a price tag of $14.6 million, Flacco would be free to negotiate with other teams and sign elsewhere.
The Ravens said earlier this month that they have a plan, but did not say which tag they planned to place on Flacco should an extension not be finalized on time. The fact that they didn’t come out and reveal their intensions has led to speculation that the Ravens could use the non-exclusive tag and lose Flacco to another team.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote two weeks ago that Flacco “could be stolen by a quarterback-needy and starved-for-relevance team like Cleveland.” He suggests the Ravens could let Flacco walk, take two first-rounders from the Browns as compensation, and address that need and others in April’s NFL draft.
With all due respect to King, that’s the exact same strategy I use every year when the new “Madden” game comes out. I trade an established quarterback for picks to I can start over with a virtual one with a 98 speed rating.
King is not the only one who thinks the Ravens are leaving themselves vulnerable to an offer from another team. Ross Tucker, another NFL talking head I respect and enjoy, wrote about it on Twitter this morning, saying that the Browns should throw a ton of money at Flacco because it would be a win-win situation for them. They could land a top-10 quarterback or, if the Ravens match, force the Ravens to overpay for Flacco.
But there is a key question being overlooked during these Flacco doomsday discussions: Does he actually want to go anywhere?
Yes, for a deal to actually take place, Flacco has to sign on the dotted line with another team. He has to willingly choose to leave Baltimore. Other teams can’t just claim him by mailing their picks to 1 Winning Drive. And all indications are that Flacco loves Baltimore and enjoys being close to his family in New Jersey.
You know what else Flacco really enjoys? Winning.
I don’t believe Flacco, having just passed the Ravens to the Lombardi Trophy, is the kind of person who would walk away from a great situation in Baltimore to sign with the Browns -- a team he has beaten 10 times in a row -- or any other quarterback-needy, cellar-dwelling team. The money might be a little bit greener if he were to sign elsewhere, but the proverbial grass -- or the proverbial FieldTurf -- won’t be as green there.
It would be one thing if the negotiations became contentious and Flacco felt as if he was being disrespected, but the conversations between the Ravens and Flacco’s agent have been cordial.
And then there’s always the possibility that Flacco could sign with another team to force the Ravens to up their ante, but that negotiating ploy might be equally as dangerous to Flacco if he does want to stay. Before getting in a game of offer sheet chicken with the Ravens, he would have to be cognizant of the fact that if he signed a lucrative offer sheet with another team, there is a slim chance that he might have to go play there.
Like I said, I have a feeling Flacco meant it when he said after the Super Bowl that he is a “Raven for life,” and after spending more than a decade looking for a franchise quarterback, the Ravens would be happy to oblige.
It would be risky if they used the non-exclusive tag, but I think they know he doesn’t want to be anywhere else.