As training camp nears, Ravens and Flacco continue extension talks

The Ravens made two moves this offseason to secure the futures of two of the organization’s better young players, but they have one prominent name still in line for a contract extension before the start of the 2012-13 season: quarterback Joe Flacco.

The Ravens signed restricted free agent Lardarius Webb in early April, agreeing to a six-year, $52.7 million contract with one of the league’s top young corners. On Monday, just minutes before the deadline to sign designated franchise players, the Ravens struck a deal with Ray Rice, presenting the Pro Bowl running back with a five-year, $40 million deal that includes $5 million in escalators and $24 million in guaranteed money.

Like Webb and Rice, the Ravens prioritized signing Flacco, who is in line to be a free agent following the upcoming season , to a contract extension this offseason. They are in regular dialogue with Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, but there remains some ground to cover if they want to finalize a deal before the fifth-year quarterback reports to training camp Tuesday.

“We are talking and will continue to talk,” Linta said in an e-mail Wednesday to The Baltimore Sun. “[Ravens vice president of football administration]Pat Moriarty is a class act and I enjoy dealing with him. We — and the Ravens, I think — have no timetable.”

There were reports Wednesday that Ravens officials are optimistic that they’ll have a deal with Flacco before the start of training camp with going to far to say there is a “75-percent” chance that an agreement will be reached before practices begin.

Linta and Moriarty, the Ravens’ chief negotiator, have been involved in ongoing talks since they met face-to-face at the NFL combine in Indianapolis in February. Team officials do not comment on the status of negotiations, but Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has made it clear the past two offseasons that the organization wants to make a long-term commitment to Flacco before the 27-year-old enters the final year of his deal.

Making that commitment within the next week would obviously erase one potential distraction for Flacco, who became a first-time father a little more than a month ago. Coupled by the recent deal with Rice, it also would cement the future of the Ravens’ offense going forward.

Rice’s new deal provided the Ravens with a little breathing room under the salary cap as they now have a little more than $3 million of space to perhaps put toward a new deal for Flacco who is due to make $6.76 million in the final year of his rookie contract.

But there still is the not-so-small matter of finding compromise on what the quarterback is worth because it’s difficult to draw any parallels between Flacco and any of the other quarterbacks who have signed extensions the past couple of years.

Flacco, who is the Ravens’ all-time leading passer in yards, touchdown passes, completions and attempts, has significantly out-performed the likes of Kansas City’s Matt Cassel (six-year, $63 million deal with $28 million guaranteed in 2009), Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick (six-year, $59 million deal with $24 million guaranteed in 2011) and Arizona’s Kevin Kolb (five-year, $63.5 million pact with $21 million guaranteed in 2011).

However, the quarterback, who is coming off an uneven season in which he set career lows in completion percentage and tied his career high in interceptions but was within a dropped pass of leading the Ravens to the Super Bowl, is not considered in the “elite” class, which includes New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Denver’s Peyton Manning, who both signed huge deals this offseason.

For his part, Flacco has mostly maintained a wait-and-see approach about a contract extension and said several times this offseason that he isn’t consumed by it.

“Joe is really focused on taking the Ravens to the next step of winning a Super Bowl and that is his focus right now,” Linta said . “He is really excited for this season.”


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