Opening up some salary cap room, the Ravens have agreed to a new contract with quarterback Joe Flacco, which ties him to the team through the 2021 season.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco rarely admits to introspection. But as he spent the past few days pondering another giant contract offer from the Ravens, the situation weighed heavily on his mind.
It wasn't the magnitude of his pending new deal. He signed a contract that guaranteed him $50 million just three years ago. It was more about what it said about his future, and his relationship with the only NFL franchise he has ever known.
"I took a couple of days to at least sleep on it because this only happens three times in a career, two times — whatever it might be," Flacco said Wednesday after signing a three-year contract extension that again makes him the highest-paid player in the NFL in terms of average money per year. "I had to sit back and remind myself what a big deal this is, and what a big decision this is and all that. I'm as happy as can be. I'm not going to think about this another day, past today."
The Ravens can now move forward as well with the comfort of knowing that their Super Bowl-winning quarterback is under contract through the 2021 season, and at a rate that is a little more forgiving on their salary cap going forward.
Flacco's three-year extension is worth $66.4 million and it includes a $40 million signing bonus, and $44 million in guaranteed money. Three years after the Ravens made him the league's highest-paid player in the league with a six-year, $120.6 million contract, Flacco is now the owner of the biggest signing bonus in league history and his $22.1 million average yearly salary also tops Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the highest in the league.
"On his shoulders stands the success of this organization over the last eight years," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in an afternoon news conference. "There's not many opportunities that you can draft a quarterback and for him to have the success that he, along with John [Harbaugh], have had over the first eight years of their career. In spending time with numerous GMs over the last week over at the combine, they all dread the day when they don't have a quarterback, and what you do to have to go and get one. We're fortunate to have one. In my mind, having Joe for the next six years, I think his best football is still ahead of him."
Newsome said all along that the team felt no pressure to rework Flacco's existing deal despite it carrying a $28.55 million salary cap hit, which would have been the third highest total in the NFL. The structure of Flacco's new deal suggests that the Ravens were more motivated to rework the quarterback's deal to help their salary cap in the future, rather than in the present.
Flacco's 2016 cap number went from $28.55 million to $22.55 million, a much-needed savings of $6 million. But it was significantly less in immediate savings than most people predicted, given the Ravens' current salary cap situation ahead of the March 9 start of free agency.
Instead, it's a more balanced deal that is more conducive to Flacco playing out the six-year deal and finishing his career as a Raven. When the contract expires, the quarterback, who is 31 and already holds most of the franchise's career passing records, will be 36 years old.
"You all don't believe me but we could have not had to do this deal. But it was something that Joe and [his agent Joe Linta] wanted to do, and something that [owner] Steve Bisciotti wanted to do," Newsome said. "That's why we were able to do it."
Later in the news conference, Newsome said, "It's going to be beneficial this year if there are players that come available that we like, or the ability to retain some players from our current roster. But we did not do a deal to gain cap room. We did a deal so Joe Flacco could be on this football team for the next six years."
For Flacco's part, the decision was a relatively easy one. He gets more money up front and more long-term security. Plus, the Ravens now have a little more cap room to play with as they attempt to address their cadre of needs following a 5-11 season.
Flacco had been preparing all along to discuss a new contract this offseason. But the importance of doing it resonated with him even more when he attended Super Bowl 50 last month.
"My biggest priority is winning and going out there and being the best football player I can be for the rest of my career," Flacco said. "I want a little help, and I want to go out there and win another Super Bowl. I remember how good that feels and I think back at kind of how jealous I am of other guys this year and the year before that, that were playing in that game. This year, I had to go to do it and watch it. That's not really fun. I want to be there and playing. That's really the main priority."
Flacco, who tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in his November, continues to make progress in his rehabilitation. He said again Wednesday that he expects to be ready to start the regular season in September. With the contract out of the way, his sole focus can return to getting healthy and the organization can turn its attention to building up the supporting cast around its quarterback. "To be able to do this is just huge for the way I feel about this city, the way I feel about this organization," Flacco said. "I can't wait to get back out there on the field after going through all of this and seeing how much work it takes to get back out there and feel 100 percent, and I can't wait until September comes rolling around and we're back out there battling again."
NOTE: Ravens reserve linebacker and special teams standout Albert McClellan officially signed a three-year, $3.75 million team on Wednesday, according to his agent, Glen Lansky. The deal includes a $600,000 signing bonus.