The Ravens would prefer getting contract extensions done with right guard Marshal Yanda, cornerback Jimmy Smith and kicker Justin Tucker in the coming weeks. All three of those players are eligible for free agency next offseason, which is already shaping up to be another challenging one for the Ravens' front office.
Beyond signing their own free agents from a group that could also include Courtney Upshaw, Kelechi Osemele and Sam Koch, the Ravens likely will need to agree to a new contract with franchise quarterback Joe Flacco.
Flacco, who signed a six-year, $120.6 million deal in March 2013, roughly a month after leading the Ravens to their second Super Bowl win, will still be under contract for 2016. However, his cap number will rise from $14.55 million this year to $28.55 million in 2016, which would be tremendously prohibitive in the organization's quest to retain its own free agents and maintain a championship roster.
Just like team president Dick Cass did last week, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said that it's not a foregone conclusion that they'll have to restructure Flacco's deal. However, Bisciotti acknowledged that it's something the Ravens will try to accomplish.
"I'm not real worried about it because I know he wants to stay. He's obviously more appreciated in Baltimore maybe than he is league-wide but I think that even the league is starting to come around and look at a guy who has not missed a snap in seven years and has a wonderful record in fourth-quarter comebacks," Bisciotti said in a conference call with season ticket holders last night. "The only thing that we did to alleviate a lot of those nerves was to build our '16 roster with his huge number. We've got it accounted for. When we get into the offseason, we're going to be looking to redo that deal and probably do it back at a six-year deal and flatten it out a little more than it was this first go around."
In saying "flatten it out," Bisciotti means that the organization will seek to eliminate the huge jump in salary cap numbers toward the middle and back end of the contract. Under his current deal, Flacco will have had modest cap numbers ($6.8 million, $14.8 million and $14.55 million) over the first three years but that changes dramatically over the final three ($28.55 million, $31.15 million and $24.75 million). That's why more than likely, a new contract will be needed.
"We were kind of in shock. I think the whole league was in shock when the market was showing that it was $20 million a year. Quite frankly, we weren't prepared to do that, so we back-loaded [the contract]," Bisciotti said. "It is, I don't want to say untenable but we can make it a win-win for Joe. … I do believe he's gotten, by the end of this year, half of that contract, somewhere around $60 million. I think he'll be very amenable to a new deal and it will be our job … to flatten out those hits on our cap so they are more consistent and don't jump from $14 to $28 [million]."
Bisciotti said that the team and Flacco and his agent, Joe Linta, knew when agreeing to his current deal that it would likely have to be restructured following three years.
"I'm very confident that we'll get it done," Bisciotti said. "We certainly are just as interested in Joe as we were three years ago."