Joe Flacco had just put his signature ona six-year contract that could pay him as much as $120.6 million and the NFL's newly-minted highest paid player had big plans to celebrate.
"I'm going to drive home tonight and just go out to dinner with a couple of people," said the Ravens' quarterback. "I'm buying, yeah."
Those who know Flacco best insist the 28-year-old is unfazed by fame and fortune but that will now be put to the test. In a little over a month's span, Flacco led his team to their second world championship by playing one of the best ever postseasons by a quarterback, won Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XLVII and signed a contract that he hoped will make him a Raven for life.
His new deal will pay him a $29 million signing bonus, $52 million guaranteed and $62 million over the first three years of the contract, more than Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Yet the closest the understated quarterback came to gloating on Monday was when he called being the game's highest-paid player "pretty sweet."
"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."
Flacco was loose, engaging and funny throughout his near 25-minute news conference at the Ravens' Under Armour Performance Center. He spoke of all the congratulatory texts that he received from teammates after word of the deal leaked, from running back Ray Rice asking if he could have the Corvette Flacco won for being named Super Bowl MVP to fullback Vonta Leach wondering what the quarterback was going to get him for Christmas.
He said that he watched the tape of the Super Bowl once and he jokingly graded his own performance as "sweet [on] every play," and then he talked about how any potential endorsement offers would have to compensate him heavily to get him off his couch.
His relaxed demeanor matched his attire: a blue, zip-up sweater, jeans and tan loafers. It was as if Flacco was making a statement that he wasn't making a big deal about his new contract, nor should anybody else. In fact, he said that the process, which essentially ended when he learned of the verbal agreement with the Ravens while he and his family were having pizza at his uncle's house in New Jersey last Friday night, was largely uneventful.
"It's definitely not sunk in, but it's not really a big deal. Our goal is to win the Super Bowl — that's always been one of my goals," Flacco said. "It's never necessarily been a goal of mine to get paid like this. It comes with the job. 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 they have made me that definitely makes me feel good about how I played and how they feel about me."
About seven months earlier, Flacco turned down a contract offer that would have made him one of the top five highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. At the time, it appeared that he was taking a risk though he didn't see it that way.
"I thought I was worth more and didn't really see any circumstances where I wouldn't end up getting paid more than what they were willing to give me at that point," Flacco said. "I always kind of had faith that we were going to get something done here no matter what. I didn't know if we were going to go win the Super Bowl and all of that, so that kind of helped the situation out a little bit. … Listen, winning the Super Bowl, winning the Super Bowl MVP doesn't make me as valuable as I am. I think I bring to the table what I bring to the table. I think I'm an asset to this team and I'm worth what I'm worth."
Having played five NFL seasons after the Ravens made him a first-round pick out of Delaware in 2008, Flacco is already the Ravens' all-time leading passer in yards (17,633), touchdown passes (102) and completions (1,507). He's never missed a start and his 63 wins, including the playoffs, are the most by an NFL starting quarterback since he entered the league. His 27 road wins during that span are also a league high and he's the first quarterback since the 1970 NFL merger to win a playoff game in each of his first five seasons.
If the Ravens had any doubts about whether he was their franchise quarterback — and they say that they never did — Flacco erased them by throwing 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions in four playoff games.
"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," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. "'Could so-and-so be our third-round Joe Montana or our sixth-round Tom Brady?' We've been out in that desert before. That all changed when we drafted Joe in 2008, and now we've secured him for many more years. Joe's a Raven in his style of play, the way he works and prepares, and the way he lives his life."
Newsome said a couple of days after the Ravens won the Super Bowl that extending Flacco – rather than using the franchise tag on the quarterback – was the organization's offseason priority. Now that it is accomplished and at a reasonable salary figure of $6.8 million for next season, the Ravens can turn their attention toward trying to re-sign free agent starters like Ed Reed, Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger.
Flacco said that he hopes the Ravens "can keep as many people as we need." The way his contract was structured will certainly make it easier for them to keep some of their high-priced offensive veterans like Leach or wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who was his favorite target in the playoffs.
"He's a big part of why I'm standing here today talking to you guys," Flacco said of Boldin. "[This] definitely increases my confidence that we'll have him back and I hope we do."
Flacco said that he spoke to offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell a few times but he's mostly in "workout phase" and letting his body heal after the long season. The quarterback's big post Super Bowl celebration was going to Las Vegas with a current Ravens' tight end (Dennis Pitta) and a former one (Todd Heap), a group that Flacco said team president Dick Cass called "the most unlikely to go to Vegas ever."
However, with a new contract in hand and a Super Bowl title to defend, Flacco was already itching getting back to work.
"It's definitely a great way to end a season," Flacco said. "Hopefully, we can do it 10 more times. That would be sweet. Then I don't have to listen to you guys in the offseason about how bad we were even though we made it to the AFC championship game. So yeah, it's just been great. "