Contract negotiations between the Ravens and quarterback Joe Flacco have yet to resume, but the elite asking price the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player hopes to command is becoming clear.
Now that Flacco has led the Ravens to a victory over the San Francisco 49ers with three touchdown passes in Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, his agent is hoping to make him the highest-paid quarterback in the game. That would entail a multi-year contract exceeding New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees' annual average of $20 million and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's annual average of $18 million.
"Somebody said, 'Should Joe be the highest-paid quarterback in the game?' I said, 'Yes,' " Flacco's agent, Joe Linta, told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday night in a telephone interview. "I'm not going to be apologetic for him. He's shown he's a big-time guy in terms of contract versus other guys. He's a lot younger than them, too. He's hitting his prime.
"When you do the contract, you want to look at two things: body of work and present value over his five years of work, including the last month. You have to be able to project out what he can do and what he can do for the next five to six years. On both counts, Joe has been exemplary. He's not injured, and the game is slowing down for him. Great quarterbacks, the game is in slow motion for them."
The Ravens' brass, including owner Steve Bisciotti, general manager Ozzie Newsome and coach John Harbaugh, will assemble Thursday morning at team headquarters for a state-of-the-team news conference that follows a high-level meeting Wednesday where undoubtedly they discussed a strategy for Flacco's unresolved contract status.
Now that Flacco's rookie contract has expired, the Ravens have three primary options:
•Sign Flacco to an expensive long-term deal that could free up salary cap space to possibly retain key defensive free agents such as inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, outside linebacker Paul Kruger, cornerback Cary Williams and free safety Ed Reed.
•Make him their nonexclusive franchise player with a one-year tender of $14.6 million, all of which would count against this year's salary cap and would make it tough to hold on other free agents. It would also potentially involve the risk of losing Flacco if another team signed him to an offer sheet and the Ravens opted not to match; if that happened, they would be compensated with two first-round draft picks.
•Assign Flacco the exclusive franchise tender of roughly $20 million, which cuts out the risk that another team would sign him to a contract, and would further cramp an already tight salary cap situation.
When will talks pick up?
"That's probably a question for the Ravens, not Joe," Linta said. "We're ready to talk whenever they are. This is not a big deal. They'll give us a call. It may get done in one day. It may get done in two years."
When talks hit an impasse in August, the Ravens and Flacco agreed to table contract discussions until the offseason.
The Ravens were confident at the time that they would be able to sign Flacco before the season, but it didn't work out as the two sides differed on total value, structure and guaranteed money.
Linta acknowledged that he's seeking higher compensation now that Flacco has had a record-tying postseason; his 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions tie him with Joe Montana and Kurt Warner for the most touchdown passes in NFL history during a single playoffs.
"Every time you talk, it's based on present circumstances," Linta said. "What we tried to do in August was reflective of the present circumstances. Now, we'll look at this situation differently."
In the playoffs, Flacco completed 73 of 126 passes (57.9 percent) for 1,140 yards and a 114.0 quarterback rating.
The Audubon, N.J., native has maintained his stoic personality whether being chased by pass rushers, sitting next to Mickey Mouse at a Disney World parade or trading one-liners with David Letterman.
"I saw that his junior year of college — there's a calmness that Joe plays with," Linta said. "He's never rattled. His biggest highs are never too high, and his lows are never too low. The big stage doesn't bother him. That's why all these material things, he doesn't have any use for them."
During his first five NFL seasons, Flacco has become the Ravens' all-time leading passer. He's also the winningest quarterback in the NFL in that span, including regular season and postseason, with a 63-30 overall record to rank ahead of the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers (57-29), the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan (57-26) and Brees (56-29).
"We have a franchise quarterback; he's going to get franchise money," Bisciotti told reporters last week before to the Super Bowl. "That franchise money thing is about as hard to define as the word 'elite,' which we've had to dissect a hundred different ways. We've got our quarterback for the next 10 years and we're going to ride Joe. So I find myself very optimistic about this."
NOTES: Traditionally, the Super Bowl champion hosts the opening game of the following season. That will hold true for the Ravens in what's expected to be a high-profile matchup in a Thursday night game Sept. 5 at M&T Bank Stadium. The league typically announces the opponent during the annual owners meetings. Those meetings will be held March 17 to March 20 in Phoenix. The top candidates for the Ravens, based on rivalries, quality of opponent and fan interest, are the New England Patriots, followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers. ... The Ravens have signed the following former practice squad players to their offseason roster: linebackers D.J. Bryant (Randallstown) and Nigel Carr, offensive linemen Antoine McClain and Jack Cornell, and tight end Alex Silvestro.
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