Ravens have to find right time, balance for Flacco contract extension

The Ravens are six games away from completing the 2012 regular season, and they are approaching the time when a team might consider signing its franchise quarterback to a contract extension.

So far, it hasn't happened for quarterback Joe Flacco and you have to wonder what front office members of the Ravens might be thinking.

If this season is Flacco's final case to show he deserves to be one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL, then he might have raised some doubt.

In home games this season Flacco has completed 115 of 173 passes for 1,612 yards, 10 touchdowns and completed 29 passes for 20 yards or more.

On the road, he has completed 91 of 168 passes for 883 yards, three touchdowns and had only 11 passes of 20 yards or more. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night, Flacco became a game manager again instead of taking control of the game.

He became erratic after being hit early and didn't make a big play . During the contest, you can see the frustration and doubt about another poor performance on the road.

The question is do you pay him the same money this season as New Orleans' Drew Brees ($20 million), Denver's Peyton Manning ($19.2 million), New England's Tom Brady ($18 million) and New York's Eli Manning ($16.25 million), or put him in the second tier with Philadelphia's Michael Vick ($16 million), Houston's Matt Schaub ($15.5 million), San Diego's Philip Rivers ($15.3 million), Chicago's Jay Cutler ($14.9 million) and Ben Roethlisberger ($14.6 million)?

The second tier seems more appropriate. Flacco, whose contract expires at the end of this season, can probably get a team to overpay in the free agent market. His agent will point out that he has led the team to the playoffs for four straight seasons, and there could be a fifth.

But the Ravens have to be careful. Hopefully, they can get a market deal done before this season is over.

"Joe and I have a very good understanding of his situation," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome of Flacco, who will make $6.76 million this season. "We are on the same page as far as his contract negotiations."

Ravens show vanilla offense in Pittsburgh

It is great that the Ravens are 8-2, but behind closed doors over at The Castle they can't be happy with an offense that was shutout against the Steelers.

The offense was pretty vanilla. Both guards, Jah Reid and Marshal Yanda, had bad games as well as center Matt Birk. Here are two suggestions for the Ravens:

Backup running back Bernard Pierce had only two carries for 8 yards in the game, but he looked better than starter Ray Rice. He runs angry. How about a few more carries?

Also, if you're going to split Rice outside as a receiver in third-and-short situations, how about keeping a runner (Pierce) in the backfield to at least have a threat of possibly running the ball?

Cornerbacks play without fear

A major difference in the play of the cornerbacks Sunday night was that both Cary Williams and Corey Graham played without fear.

They physically jammed, tugged, pushed and pulled on Steelers receivers at the line of scrimmage and turned and ran with them. That didn't happen until Graham got onto the field a couple of weeks ago.

"I thought the DB's played really well," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "The corners played really well led by Cary Williams. Corey Graham came up big."

An unsung hero in the improved play of the cornerbacks has been Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin. Against Dallas and again Sunday night, he has helped the corners by telling them the routs some of the receivers would run against them.

Ellerbe emerging

Weak side linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has played well basically filling in for the injured Ray Lewis. Ellerbe led the Ravens in tackles with 12 against Pittsburgh and seems to come up with a big play or two every game.

In the past, Ellerbe got into trouble with Harbaugh because he was late for meetings or when the team plane departed. He appeared to have cut back on those types of miscues, and would help himself out if he stopped tweeting when the team was boarding at the airport, and he was just leaving home.

Leftwich makes Ravens defense look good

Pittsburgh quarterback Byron Leftwich gave a valiant effort, but the Steelers had no confidence in him. Whenever Pittsburgh got inside the red zone, they never let Leftwich throw inside the hash marks but always to the outside away from traffic.

It made the Ravens red zone defense appear better than it actually was because they only had to defend the outside.

Leftwich did have a great quote when he was asked if he was surprised by his 31-yard touchdown run.

"No, it didn't surprise me," Leftwich said. "No, I joke with my teammates all the time. I am not a slow quarterback. I'm just the slowest black quarterback. I can move around just as good as any of these other pocket-passers in this league. I didn't surprise myself."

Deion Sanders has an opinion on Ravens' safeties

Former Ravens and All-World cornerback Deion Sanders had nothing but kind words about the Ravens two starting safeties.

"The best safety tandem in the NFL is Bernard Pollard and Ed Reed," said Sanders, an analyst for the NFL Network.

I love the national guys. They come in a night before a game, do a few interviews, get fed by the local PR guys for each team and then make a lot of statements, some of them very extreme.

I think Pollard is playing very well. End of conversation.


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