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Mike Preston: Ravens, Flacco need to finalize extension now

Mike Preston: Ravens, Flacco need to finalize extension now
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco speaks at a press conference following practice at the Ravens training facility in Owings Mills Tuesday, July 23.

Nobody wants to see the Ravens reach a contract agreement with quarterback Joe Flacco more than Flacco.

Because if they don't finalize an extension, Flacco has more to lose than just games in a city that has been his part-time home for the last eight years.

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So with only 10 days before free agency begins, both sides need to end the charades and finalize a deal. The posturing should stop, first with general manager Ozzie Newsome pretending as if he doesn't need the extension, and then with Flacco's agent Joe Linta, who is still trying to be a big-time agent.

Somewhere in the middle is Flacco, who prefers to get these negotiations over. Of course, he will get more money and an extension that will probably allow him to retire as a Raven if he chooses.

He also knows that a new deal would free up more salary cap money to sign free agents and help the Ravens become a better team.

If the Ravens don't get a new deal done and they have to honor his current contract, which will count $28.5 million against the salary cap in 2016 and $31.1 million in 2017, there will be a legion of fans who will blame him if the Ravens continue to play poorly.

It would be wrong because ever since the 2015 season ended, Flacco has consistently talked about getting a new contract extension to free up salary cap room.

Flacco has some issues.

He doesn't take criticism well, especially from his previous assistant coaches who didn't play quarterback in the NFL. He isn't as flamboyant as some quarterbacks and doesn't have the edge of a Tom Brady as far as being animated on the sidelines.

The mechanics can be poor and he can be selfish when it comes to wanting to throw the ball more than running it, but that's just the nature of the position. But more than anything else, Flacco is a competitor and a proven winner.

If possible, he wants the Ravens to have enough money to sign free agent receivers like Cincinnati's Marvin Jones or Mohamed Sanu to go along with Steve Smith. Flacco would prefer to have a veteran left offensive tackle like Jermon Bushrod if the Ravens can't re-sign Kelechi Osemele.

He has always been a team player. He doesn't throw his teammates under the bus during losing streaks or run away from the media when he plays poorly. Overall, he has been good for this franchise and this city.

He has earned a new contract because he is among the top 10 or 12 quarterbacks in the NFL, and has won consistently, especially in the post-season.

Once the Flacco deal is done, it will have a domino effect. The Ravens can enter free agency and target certain players and they can make decisions on whether they can retain certain veterans like inside linebacker Daryl Smith or force safety Lardarius Webb to take a pay cut.

And then within the next seven or eight weeks, they should have narrowed it down on if they want to take a pass rusher, defensive back or offensive tackle with their No. 6 overall pick in the first round of the NFL draft.

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The Ravens might opt for a pass rusher like Ohio State's Joey Bosa or Clemson's Shaq Lawson or a defensive back like Florida State's Jalen Ramsey or Florida's Vernon Hargreaves.

Maybe they will select Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley in the first round, but that position is more of a gamble now than 20 years ago because of the differences in the college and pro games.

"The biggest adjustment coming out of the college game is they don't understand the professional game," said former Ravens offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, a Hall of Famer. "They have to learn the schemes of NFL pro offenses and defenses."

"Taking a tackle is more projectory now," he said. "So many of the college teams run spread offenses and these guys come out of a two-point stance. In the NFL, you have to come out of a three-point stance and have good knee bend, power and anchor to knock people off the ball. That's why so many of these young linemen are struggling."

The preference here is for a defensive player, but the raft is down the road. But a new Flacco contract gives the Ravens a brighter picture and more focus. It's hard to win a Super Bowl in the NFL, and even harder without a good quarterback, one who wants to give back to his team.

Peyton Manning has done it, and so has Tom Brady. And Flacco might be next to join that group.

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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