Eisenberg: No Longer Sure Joe Flacco Deal Gets Done

There’s still time, but striking a new deal before the 2012 season looks less likely.

Posted by John Eisenberg on Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Categories: John Eisenberg

When this offseason began, I was optimistic that the Ravens would agree to a long-term contract extension with their quarterback.

Joe Flacco had stated his desire to sign a new deal before the final season of his original five-year deal commenced. The Ravens seemed to want to oblige him if at all possible, at least partially to show their faith in a player who has taken what they believe is so much unwarranted criticism.

Everyone was level-headed and wanted the same thing. Surely they could work it out.

But now I’m not as sure a deal will get done before the 2012 season.

Getting running back Ray Rice signed has been the higher priority because his original deal is up and the Ravens are trying to lock him up to a long-term extension, but those talks have dragged into June with no resolution in sight, seemingly slowing the negotiations with Flacco as well.

There’s still plenty of time, and the team is under no constraints with Flacco; since he’s under contract, he can sign an extension anytime.

But until there is progress, the possibility of him playing 2012 without a new deal seems greater now than before. It’s an interesting prospect.

It seemed the Ravens had seen enough from him in his first four seasons to reward him with one of the big deals that franchise quarterbacks obtain, with many millions in guaranteed dollars. Even though his passing stats aren’t among the league’s best by any means, he has piled up 44 wins and shepherded the team to a pair of AFC title games.

“I think he is going to win Super Bowls, a lot of them,” Ozzie Newsome, the team’s general manager and executive vice president, stated after the season.

“We got four good years out of Joe; he’s trending up. This is the sweet spot for him, years five through 10,” owner Steve Bisciotti added.

That didn’t sound like, “We need to see more.”

But if he heads into 2012, the final season of his original deal, without an extension, the season involuntarily becomes more of a prove-you-deserve-it crucible. There is simply no way around it. If he plays well, he states his case, and in fact, possibly earns more. But if he struggles, he states a different kind of case, one the Ravens would rather not envision.

It is in the team’s best interests to get the deal done before the 2012 season. They not only get their franchise quarterback at a relatively reasonable rate, when he is coming off a less-than-stellar year statistically, but they also avoid the uncertainty that creeps in when a contract expires and franchise tags and the prospect of free agency come into play. Witness the Rice negotiations.

The Ravens don’t want to go down that road with their quarterback. Flacco might not be their best player, but as their quarterback, he is their most important player. Getting him locked up, on board, strapped in and happy is imperative.

This is a new situation for the Ravens. They have dealt with almost every conceivable on-field and off-field circumstance since coming to Baltimore in 1996, but they have never had to re-up with a young starting quarterback whom they drafted and developed.

They have a history of keeping and satisfying the key cornerstone players they want to sign, but those have mostly been defensive stars, and the negotiations have often taken a long time. Quarterbacks are different, a species unto themselves, and negotiating with them can present unique circumstances.

The team has its leverage, as always, but hovering over the situation is the knowledge that the team wants no part of going back to searching for a No. 1 signal-caller instead of actually having one – an unsettled position the Ravens are all too familiar with, to their chagrin.

As much as Flacco needs the Ravens, the team that gave him a chance and developed him, the Ravens need Flacco even more.

That’s worth remembering as these various contract situations play out and the Ravens contemplate different scenarios for their future while juggling the salary cap. The quarterback is their top priority.

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