OWINGS MILLS - Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl champion, a Super Bowl MVP and, as of Monday, the highest paid player in NFL history.
Yet, addressing the media Monday afternoon, just minutes after signing his historically lucrative new long-term contract, Flacco was just typical Flacco - relaxed, humble and unassuming.
He downplayed the notion of there being any added pressure on him as a result of the new contract. He talked about his lack of interest in any potential endorsement deals. He said, "I doubt it," when asked if he's going to do anything fun with the money. He even at one point referred to signing the $100-plus million contract as "really not a big deal." And when asked by a reporter how he planned to celebrate signing the contract, Flacco responded, "I'm going to drive home tonight and just go to dinner with a couple of people close to me."
"I'm not going to do anything crazy," Flacco said. "That's about all the celebration that I can take is kind of going out and enjoying a nice little time with the people that are close to me and just kind of looking at each other saying, 'Man, can you really believe where we are?' We've done that so many times over the past month, just looked at each other - my dad, my wife - and just shook our heads and laughed. Super Bowl champs. It doesn't get any better than that, and that's still kind of where we are with the whole thing."
But Flacco did express pride in the contract - especially in the level of respect that comes along with it.
The deal will pay Flacco $120.6 million over the next six years. It includes a $29 million signing bonus and $52 million in guaranteed money.
"It means a lot," Flacco said. "It was never necessarily about the money and all that, but it was definitely about earning that respect and feeling like I was respected around here. The fact that we got it done and that they have made me [the highest paid player in NFL history] definitely makes me feel good about how I've played and how they feel about me."
But the deal benefits the Ravens as well.
First of all, it keeps Flacco - who's just 28 years old and fresh off one of the finest postseason runs for a quarterback in NFL history - in Baltimore long-term.
"I'm very happy for Joe, his family and our fans," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He has been our quarterback since Day One, and we've had confidence in him since the beginning. Joe is a tremendous competitor and highly motivated to be the best. He's a leader for us and a great teammate. He understands that we have more to accomplish, and we intend to do that. Having Joe with us certainly gives a better opportunity to succeed."
Flacco was Baltimore's first round selection (18th overall) in the 2008 NFL draft. He was named the Ravens' starting quarterback prior to the start of his rookie season and has started every game for Baltimore - both regular season and postseason - since that point.
Since Flacco took over as their starting quarterback, the Ravens are 54-26 during the regular season, they've won two AFC North titles, have appeared in three AFC championship games and won the Super Bowl this past season.
Flacco is the only quarterback since the 1970 merger to start and win a playoff game in each of his first five NFL seasons. In all, he's guided Baltimore to nine playoff victories, six of which have come on the road. The six road playoff wins are the most for a quarterback in league history.
Flacco threw for 3,817 yards with 22 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions this past season and added 1,140 yards and 11 scoring passes without an interception in the playoffs.
He finished with a passer rating of 106.3 or better in each of the four playoff games, becoming the first quarterback in league history to have a passer rating of 100 or better in all four games of a single postseason.
Said Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome: "We just returned from the [NFL Scouting Combine], and I remember the days of going there and studying and hoping that one of the quarterbacks could be our guy. 'Could so-and-so be our third-round Joe Montana or our sixth-round Tom Brady?' We've been out in that desert before. [But] that all changed when we drafted Joe in 2008, and now we've secured him for many more years."
But Flacco's deal is also one, despite the lofty totals, that provides the Ravens with some financial flexibility they wouldn't have had if they had been forced to designate Flacco as their franchise player.
Flacco will count just $6.8 million against the salary cap this season. If Baltimore had applied the exclusive franchise tag to Flacco, which it was expected to if a long-term deal wasn't agreed to before Monday, Flacco would've counted nearly $20 million against the salary cap, which would've put the Ravens in an even more difficult of a situation as far as trying to retain a player like linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 12.
Said Flacco: "I know that [the deal's] going to be less on the cap than an exclusive or non-exclusive franchise [tag] would be. That's all I know. I know we have a lot of good players on the team. I know I love to play with those guys, so hopefully it works out very good for the organization and we can keep as many people as we need."
As far as Flacco, though, he said his preparation has already begun for next season.
"I've talked to [offensive coordinator] Jim [Caldwell] a little bit," Flacco said. "Obviously, he was the coordinator the last few weeks of the season, but with the offseason there's going to be some things that we talk about in terms of how we want to attack next year and how we want to verbalize things and all that.
"So, I've talked to him a little bit just to tell him a little bit about how I feel about how we've done things in the past, and we'll continue to meet on that stuff. But right now, it's really just kind of in the workout phase and getting your body healthy and all of that."