The Ravens have their franchise quarterback and they might want to sign him to that extension soon. After all the ridicule and unfair criticism that was heaped on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in his first four NFL seasons, it's clear that he thinks highly of himself and the Ravens think highly of him, too, so much that it is believed that they offered him a five-year contract extension that is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million. Given how well Flacco played in the loss to New England in the AFC championship game last year and also given how much funny money mediocre quarterbacks such as Kevin Kolb and Ryan Fitzpatrick are raking in, that seems like fair value for an ascending quarterback who just so happens to have one of the strongest right arms in the NFL and a resume that includes more wins than any other quarterback in his first four seasons. But after his near-flawless performance against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday night, the Ravens should maybe forge his signature on that contract before Flacco goes out the next few games and plays well enough to earn a little more cash for his young family. There had been so much buzz about how sharp Flacco looked in training camp -- and it was warranted -- and it was clear he and the Ravens wanted to come out and make a statement at the start of the game. On their first play from scrimmage, Flacco executed a play-fake, then was knocked down after heaving a bomb down the field to wide receiver Torrey Smith for a 52-yard gain. The Ravens didn't take their foot off the pedal until they were up by four touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He had a couple of passes clank off the hands of Bengals defenders and he missed a wide-open Jacoby Jones late in the third quarter, but I can't remember him looking this poised and polished. From his pre-snap command at the line to his convincing play fakes that sucked in defenders, Flacco once again showed in the spotlight that he is the real deal. He finished the night with 21 completions for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 29 attempts -- that's an impressive 10.3 yards per attempt against a team that made the playoffs in 2011. Even the usually modest but increasingly less-stoic quarterback admitted that he had fun out there. Ravens coach John Harbaugh clearly enjoyed himself, too. During his post-game news conference, a national reporter asked Harbaugh if Flacco was an elite quarterback. Yes, Harbaugh replied, and he's a winner, too. He said Flacco was the best quarterback that he has been around, though he joked that he hasn't been around a lot of quarterbacks being a former special teams coach and all. Finally, the giddy coach was asked if Flacco's quarterback price tag had just gone up. "Pay him whatever he asks for," Harbaugh said with a grin, getting a few laughs. "Pay the man." Flacco, who stood in the corner while waiting to hit the podium, replied, "Hey, y'all heard that." Actions speak louder than words, and Flacco's statement echoed inside of a frenzied M&T Bank Stadium. It's unknown if the ball is in Flacco's court or if Team Flacco is waiting for the Ravens to make a counteroffer. Both sides are receptive to finishing the deal during the season. It's going to get done, but it may be fiscally prudent for the Ravens to get him to put pen to paper now because he will be more expensive if his season ends in Honolulu or, better yet, New Orleans.
Baltimore Sun photo by Christopher T. Assaf