By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
9:05 AM EST, February 23, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- The agent for Super Bowl Most Valuable Player quarterback Joe Flacco and Ravens vice president of football administration Pat Moriarty conducted their first meeting since contract talks hit an impasse in August, team and league sources confirmed.
By all accounts, the Friday night meeting in downtown Indianapolis adjacent to the Ravens team hotel went fine and talks will continue. If a deal is eventually struck, it will make Flacco one of the highest-paid players in the game.
The Ravens attempted to make Flacco one of the top five highest paid quarterbacks during the summer, but talks hit a snag over guaranteed money, total value and structure. Now, agent Joe Linta has stated he wants Flacco to exceed New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees' $20 million annual average and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning's $18 million annual average.
The hope from both sides is to work out a contract prior to a March 4 NFL deadline to use the franchise tag to prevent Flacco from becoming an unrestricted free agent. Rather than potentially expose Flacco to offers from other teams at a nonexclusive franchise tender level of $14.6 million, it's expected to be a $20.46 million exclusive franchise tender.
Under the nonexclusive tender, the Ravens would have the right of first refusal to match any competing offer sheet from another team. If they opted not to match, they would be compensated with two first-round draft picks.
However, that's regarded as an extremely unlikely scenario because the Ravens won't risk losing Flacco after he upgraded his play significantly during the postseason with 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in the playoffs.
That included Flacco delivering three touchdowns and zero interceptions in manufacturing a Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
"Somebody said, 'Should Joe be the highest-paid quarterback in the game?' I said, 'Yes,' " Linta told The Baltimore Sun recently. "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."
Flacco's 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.
In the playoffs, Flacco completed 73 of 126 passes (57.9 percent) for 1,140 yards and a 114.0 quarterback rating.
"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."
The Ravens have a history of eventually signing their franchise players to market-value deals, including Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice to a five-year, $40 million maximum value deal last July and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata in 2011 to a five-year, $61.5 million contract two years ago.
"Joe Flacco has the most leverage of any player I've seen in a while, so it's going to be really interesting to see it all unfold," said Mike McCartney, Ngata's agent. "The Ravens do have a history of getting their top players signed. It often does go to the deadline, but Pat Moriarty and Ozzie Newsome do get their top guys signed. And the quarterback position is so important. I anticipate those two sides eventually getting something done."
Meanwhile, the Ravens continue to talk to their other unrestricted free agents heading into a free agent signing period that begins March 12 at 4 p.m.
That included a Friday breakfast meeting with the agent for starting inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
"They're obviously focusing on the short-term on the Flacco issue first," said Hadley Engelhard, who represents Ellerbe. "The next focal point is Dannell. Hopefully, it will work out. We plan on meeting many, many times between now and free agency."