"It's the job of the front office to not let cap dictate key football decisions," Brandt said. "They'll do what they've planned to do. The cap will work itself out, or it should. The management tool of the franchise tag is a powerful one. I would be surprised if the Ravens haven't had a plan to use the tag on Flacco and deal with the other free agents for some time now."

Peyton Manning ($20 million) has the highest quarterback base salary for 2013 followed by Eli Manning ($13 million), Matthew Stafford ($12.5 million), Ben Roethlisberger ($11.6 million) and Tom Brady ($9.75 million).

What should the Ravens pay Flacco?

"Flacco and his agent certainly could point to the data points of the Brees contract and deals ahead for Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and others to justify their asking price," Brandt said. "To date, however, it seems the team has been unwilling to meet those demands and the devil is usually in the details: amount guaranteed, cash flow after two, three, four years.

"The tag has become a weapon to secure contracts at the deadline. The player knows he'll be forced to play a one-year contract without security or accept a long-term deal far exceeding that, although not the ideal contract he may have been looking for."

If the Ravens make Flacco their franchise player, history suggests they'll eventually sign him to a long-term deal.

Only once before — offensive lineman Wally Williams going to the New Orleans Saints after being a franchise player in 1998 — has the team not ultimately signed their franchise player to a contract.

That includes past deals with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (five years, $61 million), outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (six years, $63 million) and cornerback Chris McAlister (seven years, $55 million)

Last July, the Ravens signed Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice to a five-year, $40 million maximum value contract roughly an hour before an NFL deadline where he would have had to play the entire season under the franchise tag.

"The Ravens do take care of their guys," Rice said. "They did that with me last year, and hopefully the same thing happens for Joe."



Top quarterback compensation

It's an extremely expensive proposition to have a blue-chip quarterback on the roster, costing NFL teams huge dollar figures annually. Although New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees' $100 million deal averages $20 million in annual compensation as the highest current quarterback contract, his 2013 salary-cap figure is $17.4 million with a base salary of $9.75 million. Here's a look at the top five salaries and corresponding salary-cap figures for 2013 that have boosted the average of the top five quarterback cap figures to $20.46 million:

Quarterback Team Base salary Salary-cap figure

1. Tom Brady New England Patriots $9.75 million $21.55 million

2. Eli Manning New York Giants $13 million $20.85 million

2. Matthew Stafford Detroit Lions $12.5 million $20.82 million

4. Peyton Manning Denver Broncos $20 million $20 million

5. Ben Roethlisberger Pittsburgh Steelers $11.6 million $19.596 million